Lionel Messi didn't stand a chance. Half a dozen companions, tall and muscular, literally pushed the world champion, who had just been voted world footballer, across the green felt carpet in front of the Salle Pleyel in Paris.
No defender would have let the Argentinian chase him on the pitch in such scurrying steps. A bodyguard ran ahead with a suitcase. Safely stored in it: Messi's silver trophy as "officially the best player in the world". That's how FIFA President Gianni Infantino put it on stage shortly before with pride and pathos in his voice.
Messi then said a few more words in front of the cameras chosen by his companions and disappeared into the Parisian night. In the background, fans shouted his name and sang the Argentinian anthems that had redefined the football rhythm in Qatar a good two months ago. "An honor" is the renewed award as world footballer, the seventh overall by FIFA, said Messi. The event, dubbed The Best Gala, did not provide the framework for meaningful or forward-looking statements.
Applaus von Mbappé
The stars of Real Madrid around top striker Karim Benzema and coach Carlo Ancelotti may have suspected that, as protagonists beaten by Messi, they would only have been accessories - and stayed in the Spanish capital. After all, Paris club colleague Kylian Mbappé sat next to Messi and applauded well. The interaction of the two works - attention, FC Bayern - not only on the pitch pretty well.
There was a little patina on the event, which has the charm of a family reunion with aging aunts and uncles. Emotionally opened with a posthumous honor for Pelé, some observers got the feeling that it might have been the last time that the 35-year-old Argentinian Messi was chosen as the best of the guild.
What is Messi doing in the summer?
Long-term rival Cristiano Ronaldo is already in football exile in Saudi Arabia. His name no longer appeared in the FIFA circle. Where is Messi headed in the summer? Back to Barcelona? In the USA? Or will he stay in Paris? Where are epochal football deeds still possible? Such questions about the future died away without an answer in the Paris night.
The praised one not only faces important decisions, but also important tasks. Next week we're off to Munich for the second leg of the Champions League round of 16. A 0:1 must be caught up. Only this title, which they have in common with FC Bayern at PSG, really counts. In any case, much more than a silver trophy from FIFA.