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Argentina’s World Cup win a ‘perfect story’ for Messi, says Zabaleta

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Former Argentine defender Pablo Zabaleta was on the verge of tears after watching Lionel Messi lead his country to World Cup glory.

Messi scored twice in the dramatic 3-3 draw against France and converted his penalty in the shootout as Argentina won 4-2.

“I am so emotional. It’s one of those moments,” Zabaleta, Messi’s teammate when Argentina lost to Germany in the 2014 final, said on BBC One.

“I’m only seeing Messi. Thank you all for that great game. What a perfect story for Messi. He deserves it one hundred percent.

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“I have been part of that team when Messi first came to play with the national team. He came to represent his country with passion and respect.

“He has always shown that for his country. Everyone is crying and giving him a big hug.

“For our country, we will see a photo of Diego Maradona and Messi, two of the best players of all time, with the World Cup trophy. That’s such an amazing thing.”

The Qatar tournament has been plagued with controversy, but the football was fascinating at times, most notably in the final.

“Before the World Cup he was one of the most controversial, but I have to say that he has been brilliant in football,” added Zabaleta.

Fellow pundit Alan Shearer said the final, in which Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick for France, was “amazing”.

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We’re out of breath up here. It was an incredible final. It was great to be here, a pleasure to be here,” she said.

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“I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again. He was amazing”.

England midfielders Declan Rice and James Maddison were among the first to pay tribute to Messi, who at 35 had finally bagged football’s biggest prize.

“Lionel Messi. The best ever,” Rice said. “We’ll never see a player like Messi again.”

Maddison believes the ‘GOAT’ debate between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is settled once and for all.

“For those who know football, they know that tonight’s result did not determine if Messi was the best player in history or not,” he said.

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“But nonetheless, I’m so happy that he did it for the people who thought he needed it, so there’s no debate now.”

Former England striker Michael Owen said: “Congratulations Argentina. amazing game. Surely the best ending ever?

“Messi puts the top hat on an incredible career, but think of Mbappé, a hat-trick in a World Cup final and he goes home empty-handed.”

Stars from other sports chimed in to praise Messi.

Britain’s two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray wrote on Twitter: “Is Messi the greatest athlete of all time? Forget just football. What a man.”

Former India batsman Sachin Tendulkar tweeted: “Many congratulations to Argentina for doing this for Messi!

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“Wonderful comeback from the way they started the campaign. Special mention to (Emi) Martínez for the spectacular save towards the end of extra time. That was a clear indication to me that Argentina would achieve this.”

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England’s 1966 hero Sir Geoff Hurst, the only previous man to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final, had a message for Mbappe.

He wrote: “Many congratulations to Mbappé, come what may. I’ve had a great run!”

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