Lionel Messi is an artist disguised as a footballer -- losses don't matter
LOS ANGELES -- As in life itself, not all things in sports can or should be valued based on winning or losing. When it comes to athletes who produce true works of art, bring unmatched talent and imagination to the game and reach extraordinary levels with their mastery, wins and losses matter even less. Lionel Messi is one such star.
When it comes to Messi, one can speak of artistry. Watching Messi play football is similar to appreciating a painting by Vincent Van Gogh, a work of art by Leonardo da Vinci or music by Ludwig van Beethoven. It's in these moments that wins and loses become trivial, insubstantial matters. Just seeing Messi on the pitch -- the way he makes things happen and puts his technical, mental and physical skills on display -- is a win in and of itself. To me, it's enough.
I feel sorry for Messi. He doesn't deserve the bitter moments he has lived through with the Argentina national team as it tries to evoke the glory days of decades past to no avail.
His expression of pain and tears on Sunday in New Jersey upon La Albiceleste's loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final showed his great frustration. Hope returned to dangle at his feet, and pressure was placed on his shoulders, but Argentina failed to win.
The danger now lies in the possibility that the great Barcelona player will be remembered for the absence of good moments and championships with the national team, rather than for his phenomenal days on the pitch.
Football is and always will be a team sport. Players such as Messi, however, have made us think otherwise; his inspiration, magic, supremacy and power to almost always find a way to resolve things on the pitch have changed our perception of the game.
The Copa America Centenario final provided a useful lesson: Argentina played for Messi, thinking he could solve everything himself. With this in mind, we forgot Gonzalo Higuain's miss toward the start of the match and Sergio Aguero's second-half shot, which was saved by Claudio Bravo in spectacular fashion.
Everyone was prepared to see La Copa de Messi, Messi's Copa America title -- only Messi's. While that was happening -- or not happening -- Chile were playing as a team. Chile's players joined forces, grew in strength and even managed to build on their performance following Marcelo Diaz's expulsion just before the half-hour mark. They waited patiently for the moment when they would win the Copa America from the penalty spot for the second consecutive time.
Chile have had great success. They is an example for others, because finally, after many years of struggle and work, they have taken advantage of a blessed generation -- the best ever -- to catch up with their historic football neighbors: Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.
For me, nothing has changed since Argentina's defeat. Messi is still the best player in the world.
There are many who are committed to comparing epochs, to putting him face-to-face with others in history. Declaring him a footballer devoid of character and personality -- as Diego Maradona recently did -- seems inconsequential to me. His mark on world football, statistics and irrefutable performances on the field leave only evidence of his greatness. It would be worth examining whether some of the players around him -- Higuain, Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi -- are not actually overvalued themselves instead.
It is unfair to catalog Messi's career based on what he has failed to win with Argentina. I am certain that he has always strived to give us everything he has to offer. His resignation from the Argentina national team is a sign of pain and also the character and personality so claimed of him.
If Messi follows through with his decision, it will be bad news for football and its fans. After all, when we're dealing with an artist of Messi's talent, win or lose, we can only reflect on anecdotes of his greatness.
David Faitelson is based in Los Angeles and co-hosts "Nacion ESPN," ESPN Deportes' version of "SportsNation." Follow him on Twitter @Faitelson_ESPN.