Former Uruguay captain Diego Lugano believes that had Lionel Messi been born on the northern banks of the Rio de la Plata, Uruguay would have strolled to back-to-back World Cup glory.
Messi has competed in four World Cups for Argentina, falling once at the last-16 stage, twice in the quarters and, in 2014, battling through to the final where the Albiceleste lost out to Germany.
But if he had Uruguay’s famously ferocious and committed stars at his back, Lugano argues, the story would have been very different.
What was said?
“If Messi were playing for Uruguay in that 2010 World Cup, we would have won it,” Lugano, who made 95 appearances for the Celeste as a hard-tackling centre-back before hanging up his boots following Brazil 2014, told students of the TEA Journalism School in Buenos Aires.
“And if Messi were Uruguayan in Brazil and Luis Suarez had not been kicked out, we would have won that too.”
The bigger picture
Lugano was involved in both the South Africa and Brazil campaigns for Uruguay, captaining the nation on each occasion.
In 2010 Oscar Tabarez’s men fought through to the semi-finals, where they lost out in a thrilling 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands.
Four years later, the Celeste beat out Italy and England to finish second in a group that contained three previous World Cup winners.
In the process, however, Suarez performed his infamous bite on Giorgio Chiellini and missed Uruguay’s last-16 clash as the Celeste fell 2-0 to Colombia.
Lugano’s men do boast one achievement that has eluded Messi: Copa America glory, sealed in 2011 in Argentina after dumping the holders out on penalties in the last eight.
The two Rioplatense rivals will next meet on June 17 in the 2021 Copa America, at Cordoba’s Estadio Mario Kempes.