Lionel Messi has said that his record-breaking Instagram post shows that the footballing world were united behind him last winter.
The Paris Saint-Germain star finally ended years of World Cup heartbreak to lift the biggest prize with Argentina in Qatar. In what was likely to be his last chance at glory, Messi won Player of the Tournament to drag the nation to another world crown.
Many neutrals were desperate for him to finally lead Argentina to the trophy, helping to underline his credentials as the greatest player of all time.
And after their dramatic penalty-shootout win over France, there was an outpouring of emotion from across the globe.
That was evident when a post he put up in the wake of their triumph became the most-liked in the history of the social media platform. Alongside some pictures of the forward and the trophy, Messi posted a touching message.
“So many times I dreamed it, so much I wanted it. I can’t believe it,” the post read, “Thank you so much to my family, to all who support me and also to all who believed in us. We prove once again that Argentinians when we fight together and united we are able to achieve what we aim.
“The merit is of this group, which is above individuals, is the strength of all fighting for the same dream that was also the one of all Argentinians… We did it!!!”
The images went viral, racking up more than 75 million likes in the days after the final. That saw him leapfrog Cristiano Ronaldo as the owner of the most liked sporting image in history, before taking over the full record – which was held by the picture of an egg.
Ronaldo had set the record for a sportsperson on the eve of the World Cup, with a picture of the former Manchester United star playing chess with Messi.
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Last winter’s competition was billed as the opportunity for the two foes to separate themselves from one another, having been linked for their entire careers.
And Messi believes his social media record shows that the general population were behind his bid for glory: “I didn’t look for it either, because I wasn’t looking to be the most liked photo, far from it. But hey, there it is,” he told infobae.
“It shows a little bit what people wanted to see me with that Cup. I think that photo reached people. The truth is that very few comments I could read. It is very difficult. I had a million messages and it ended up blocking me. It was crazy.”
As well as receiving support from the world, there were also some notable messages of support from the sporting world in general, including Tiger Woods and Tom Brady – both GOATs in their own disciplines.
Speaking about the messages, he added: ”Very grateful because the names that came to put things on me are all world stars, number 1 in what they do.
“That at that moment they put something of mine, for me it is a great pride and I am very grateful to all those who did it. Something very nice that other athletes recognize you in those ways.”