Stuart Holden: World Cup win in 2018 would cement Messi as the greatest player of all time

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Stuart Holden and John Strong join Colin Cowherd and Jason McIntyre to discuss how this year's World Cup will effect Messi's legacy.

- All right. Guys, to the legacy of Messi, who kind of feels-- has a Pelé feel to him. He's just-- nobody else can do what he can do. What does a World Cup do to his legacy? Stu, I'll start with you.

- It cements him as the best player of all time.


- Because still, right now, Lionel Messi has that knock of, with Argentina, with the national team, not succeeding. And you saw that little highlight a minute ago, where he misses the penalty against Chile in the Cope América Centenario final. And he was in tears. And he was crying and then retired in the locker room right after that.

And we all thought, well, Messi will come back. And he did. And he came back to win a World Cup with Argentina because I think he feels the pride when he represents that, sure, but also in knowing that he wants to succeed. And that would be the only knock on him when you look at his career and what he's achieved at club level.

COLIN COWHERD: Do you agree with that?

- At worst, Messi is on Mount Rushmore as it stands. Can he be considered the greatest of all time? You have to win the World Cup to do that.

And like Stu said, in the last four years they lose the final in Brazil. They lose the Copa América final the following summer. Then they come to the US. They lose the Copa América final again in penalties. And, yeah, he retires. And he seems done with it.

They bring him out of retirement. He scores a hat trick on the final day of qualifying just to get him in. So this would be the ultimate sort of Greek heroic arc, for him to stand at the end of it.

And, almost certainly, this will be the end for him and his national team career. And I think he's only got a couple more years left before he walks away from Barcelona. So this is a guy that understands the difference between him and Maradona and Pelé is lifting the trophy we just saw in [INAUDIBLE].

- It feels like his World Cup. I mean, to me, it kind of feels like-- like we always say this. Warriors may be the best, but it's always LeBron's playoffs. This feels like Messi's World Cup to me.

- And here's the interesting difference. So the comparison is Messi and Ronaldo. Now, Ronaldo has won a trophy with Portugal. They won the European championship. Ronaldo was off the field. He came off injured early in the final. It was his teammates that carried him.

Whereas in each of those three finals that I mentioned, Gonzalo Eguaine, who scores goals with his eyes closed for his club team, misses huge 1V1 opportunities. If Messi's teammate puts one of those in, including in the final in the last World Cup, we're not having this conversation.

So as much as it's about these individuals, for both of them right now it's their teammates who they are relying on to get them over the hump. Because for each of them, that's what's at stake, as it's probably Ronaldo's last World Cup. And it's the same story. Can he get over the hump and stake his claim to being the best to ever play?

- So you'd say maybe Messi is a little more likely to win the World Cup than Ronaldo?

- I would say, on paper, Argentina is a better team. And as we saw last summer, I think Portugal have played better as a team of late.

- And when you watch Portugal, they're not as exciting going forward as Argentina. They're a little bit more organized. Fernando Santos, their coach-- and that's how they won the euros. In the old format of the European Championship, they wouldn't even have gotten out of the group stage.

They expanded the format. They got through. They grinded out results. And they got to the final. To do that, then, in a World Cup, when the quality is that much better, I think Portugal will have a bigger task than when I look at this Argentine team. With the quality they have, they should go further than Portugal.

COLIN COWHERD: I always felt, in my life, that Argentina and Brazil had the most soccer skill. It was so deeply embedded in their culture. And then, about five years ago, in sort of a San Antonio Spurs shift, the less flashy, more system-oriented Germans--


- --took the sport over. And in the last five years, I felt like, I don't know. Germany's figured out-- it's Belichickian. It's San Antonio. It's not flashy. Is it star, or is it system? Are they the heavy favorite?

- They're certainly the favorites when I look at this. And call them-- the Confederations Cup last year, Germany, they announced their roster. And they brought a second team, a second team, with a number of kids. And what did they do? They won the tournament with their second team against Chile's first game, against Portugal's first team.

Germany came out on top. And I fully believe Germany could probably field three teams with the players that we see in the Bundasliga that would all get out of the group stage. And that's why they're the favorites. Because, like you said, when we're looking at the big three stars-- Neymar, Messi, Ronaldo-- the fourth star there is Germany as a team. Because there's not one guy that you picked out and say--

COLIN COWHERD: So it is a system.

- It is a system, absolutely. And the comparison to a Belichick type team of just everybody knowing their roles and identity and what they need to do on the field, it's almost disheartening. When I know I'm playing against a German team, you look across the line and you know they're not going to give you an inch. And there's nothing unpredictable about that--

COLIN COWHERD: They're physical.

- --because they are just going to grind you out.

COLIN COWHERD: They humiliated-- didn't they humiliate Brazil?

- 7 to 1.

- And it was that moment you're like, oh, wow. Like, I almost felt like soccer internationally changed. I mean, Brazil was always intimidating.

You watched Brazil, as an American. And I was like, OK, that's a different sport. And then Germany did that to Brazil. And it felt like, to me, again, as somebody that doesn't have your base of knowledge, it felt like everything changed.

- And that's a part of the narrative for Brazil now, is that was their home World Cup. And they were humiliated, humiliated in the semifinal without Neymar. He had suffered a back injury in the game before.

And now you have this thing where Neymar, one of the other three best players in the world with Ronaldo and Messi. He's broken his foot the other week. He's had surgery. The date of return of surgery is June 1. The World Cup starts two weeks later.

In the 2002 World Cup, David Beckham had broken his foot. And it was a national obsession in England in the months before the World Cup. Would he return?

So now you're talking about a Brazil that gets humiliated in their home World Cup. Are they going to have Neymar? And is he going to be full strength?

One of the best players in the world as they come to this thing-- so that's where-- listen. It's always a World Cup. The stakes are big. But you've got some incredible storylines with some of these individuals in these teams.

And it's not like-- in a league or in any other sport, it's every year. OK. You lost the Super Bowl. Reload. Go back at it again in six months. This is four years in between these tournaments. And you never know if, in the intervening four years-- injuries, a young player-- you're ever going to get the chance again.