The way thingse are going for Argentina, Messi could be the unhappiest person in Russia. He was far from his best in the tournament and never looked anything like the player he has been for Barcelona in the last decade. Messi is not actually the cause of Argentina's woes, he is the victim.
That is why the Argentine coach was quick to take the blame for the failure against Croatia. There were times in the past where Argentina lost some crucial chances when Messi failed to convert, but then we must not forget that he was often the sole reason for the team's progress to that point in the tournament. What happens to Messi when he plays for Argentina? Why doesn't he feel pressure when he plays for Barcelona? These are questions the world is asking the man. And it would be wise to find answers on our own than pile more misery on the Argentine.
Messi joined Barcelona as a teenage prodigy. He feels no pressure playing for Barcelona because they are one of the top clubs in the world even without his services. Argentine national team on the other hand is a different story. They do not have the players to win a major tournament if Messi is taken out of the team. They depend on him so much that his failure is synonymous with their failure, whereas at Barcelona that is hardly the story. When Messi joined Barcelona they already had Ronaldinho. They have Rakitic and until very recently Iniesta as well. Neymar and Suarez would have been more than sufficient for Barcelona even if Messi had left for another club.
At Argentina, Messi has to do everything. He cannot simply wait for the chances as he does in La Liga. He has to create them and sometimes score them on his own from long rangers. Argentina has been defended so well because they rely too much on one player. Even when Messi was flanked by 4 defenders, none of the other players could make a considerable impact. Against Croatia Messi was so well defended that he hardly got the ball. People expect Messi to make Argentina at par with Brazil, when the reality is that they are a far better side in all areas. Neymar is just one of the talents. Even without him, Brazil can win this tournament. He is just the poster boy who hardly feels the pressure. This is evident from the tricks he puts on display in the matches. He dribbles past defenders with ease because his mind is free unlike that of Messi. Messi walks around the ground as if he is literally carrying all the others on his shoulder.
Against Croatia one could read the tension on his face even before the match began. He has often been compared with Ronaldo although everybody knows that very few people considered Portugal as World Cup contenders when the tournament began. Portugal even under the GOAT Ronaldo is still only the black horses not the favourites. Ronaldo relishes the big stage. Unlike Messi it brings out the best in him. Real Madrid's Champions League victory and Barcelona's La Liga success point to the essential difference between the two players. Messi is himself when he plays in the league where none of the matches are crucial in the big picture. Ronaldo on the other hands gets his adrenaline pumped up when he plays the big matches.
Messi's lack of energy on the field is definitely a product of the pressure he feels inside. His legs are so heavy and it is evident that he is not really captain material whereas Ronaldo is. It is interesting to see that Neymar is not leading his side. He might be their best player but they do not want him to feel any pressure at all. What Argentina should do is find another player to captain the side, somebody who is passionate and has enough in him to motivate the team when they trail. Messi should be left alone to do his job as a player. He saved Argentina from disgrace when the team's world cup qualification hung by a thread in their last match. He will have to do the same when Argentina play an in form Nigeria. Messi is after all a player and a good one at that. The moment Messi himself and his fans accept that he will deliver for Argentina.