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Lionel Messi truth is clear to Liverpool star with huge summer opportunity

Lionel Messi of Argentina celebrates with teammate Alexis Mac Allister after winning a FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Brazil and Argentina at Maracana Stadium on November 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
-Credit: (Image: Wagner Meier/Getty Images)


The story of the last World Cup was undoubtedly Lionel Messi. Finally claiming the game's biggest prize, he put to bed the last thing anyone could hold against him in the debate over the greatest to ever play football.

But in the race for the best subplot, Alexis Mac Allister was right up there. At the time, he had only relatively recently become a mainstay in the Brighton team, never mind Liverpool — yet here he was alongside Messi, playing a pivotal role in Argentina's success.

He will travel to the Copa América this summer as one of the established key performers in the Argentina side, and with a huge opportunity beckoning. But Mac Allister is under no allusions about the continued status of Messi in the national set-up.

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"We always focus a lot on the group and the team," Mac Allister told ESPN during the last international break. "We know that when Leo is not there, we have to become even stronger because we don't have that player who, when things go wrong, can save us."

At the time, Messi was an injury doubt. But he's fit and firing for the Copa América, something Mac Allister will clearly see as a huge boost: "We know that when Leo is there, they [rivals] are a little more afraid. It is normal."

But Mac Allister also highlighted that Argentina has a number of other good players at big clubs around Europe, a category into which he himself now falls. Much like at the World Cup, while any success is likely to be inspired by Messi, it will only be made possible by a collective effort.

After all, the reality of Messi's brilliance now is different from what it once was. The Inter Miami forward certainly needs others to compensate for him out of possession — a trade-off that remains well worth making, but one that leaves Mac Allister working overtime in midfield.

Between them, Messi, Mac Allister and the rest of the Argentina side can make a bit of history. They already became the reigning champions of both the Copa América and the World Cup when they claimed the latter trophy in 2022, but could become only the second world champions ever to then go on to take the continental crown.

Brazil did it in 2004, beating Argentina on penalties after winning the World Cup in 2002, but no other reigning world champion has tasted Copa América success. It would also mean Argentina had won each of the last three major trophies on offer, a hugely rare accomplishment.

Even in his autumn years, Messi remains the undisputed star. But his supporting cast has never been better, with Mac Allister a key part of the success it will look to extend even further this summer.

Liverpool.com says: When it comes to picking a consistent performer, Mac Allister has a strong case to be Liverpool's player of the season. Yet at club level as well as country, he plays the kind of facilitative role that can see him go under the radar.

A hugely intelligent footballer, he should be a central part of the Arne Slot era. But before that, he will be hoping to come back from the USA with another trophy, where Argentina will be relying on him almost as much as Messi.