The prospect of leading his country to a first major title in 22 years is driving Lionel Messi as Argentina meet Chile on Saturday in a Copa America final clash of the golden generations.
The three-week South American football showpiece reaches its climax at the Estadio Nacional with a dream final pitting the favourites against the hosts, and the stakes could not be any higher for both sides.
Messi heads a star-studded Argentina desperate to write their own piece of history by winning a first international title since 1993, 12 months after an agonizing defeat to Germany in last year’s World Cup final.
Chile, meanwhile, are anxious to finally shed their unwanted tag as the perennial nearly men of South American football, ending 99 years of hurt by winning a first Copa America.
An Argentine triumph would crown a remarkable season for Messi, who less than a month ago completed a treble-winning campaign with Barcelona with victory in the Champions League final.
It would also erase the sense of frustration Messi has often felt at international level, 10 years after he led Argentina to victory as a teenager in the 2005 Under-20 World Cup.
“This generation is desperate to win a title with the national team,” Messi told reporters on the eve of the Copa America.
“As a team, we deserve to win something and it would mean so much after the World Cup last year where we came so close.”
Argentina striker Sergio Aguero, who featured in an under-20 World Cup-winning side in 2007, believes defeat is not an option.
“If this generation of players don’t win anything we’re going to regret it for the rest of our lives,” the Manchester City star said. After a series of unconvincing performances in the first phase, and a nervy win on penalties against Colombia in the quarter-finals, the signs are that Argentina have hit form at the right time.