Monday 01 May 2017, 17:11

Sorin: We treated Messi like a rare jewel

  • 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ Argentina captain recalls FIFA U-20 World Cup Qatar 1995 triumph

  • Reflects on Lionel Messi’s talents and ear-marks Neymar as best of the upcoming generation

  • Looks ahead to Qatar 2022 and reliving his own golden memories

Twenty-two years after lifting the FIFA U-20 World Cup title in Qatar as captain of Argentina, Juan Pablo Sorin still vividly remembers that golden moment.

“Winning the U-20 World Cup in Qatar was one of the best days of my life," Sorin told "We were the first Argentina side since Diego Maradona’s team to win the title. The Khalifa Stadium and that final in 1995 against Brazil changed my life, because we all returned to Argentina as champions of the world. No one had counted us among the favourites.”

Under the tutelage of now Colombia coach Jose Pekerman, Argentina marched into the final with a commanding 3-0 semi-final win over Real Madrid legend Raul Gonzalez’s Spain. In front of a sold-out Khalifa International Stadium, Argentina defeated Brazil 2-0 and it was Sorin that lifted the trophy.

“One thing that stays in my mind was the incredible passion for football among the fans in Qatar. At the time Diego Maradona was in everyone’s minds, so the neutrals in the crowd were supporting us.

“I remember it was full that day in the stadium, and all throughout the stands you could see the white robes of the traditional dress, and then our national flag. It was a spectacular atmosphere. I can imagine that passion will multiply many times over by the time Qatar host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

Looking ahead, Argentina’s captain at Germany 2006 said he would love a return to stadium that kick-started his international career. “A World Cup in Qatar will be unique. I’d love to return to the stadium which is so special to me and my team-mates, to meet old friends again and come to watch the World Cup, and perhaps even see Argentina lift the trophy again in Qatar.”

Messi deserves to win a World CupFor Sorin, today’s Argentinian crop can emulate Diego Maradona’s title-winning team at Mexico 1986: “The current generation around Messi deserves to win the World Cup. Our generation was unable to win that elusive title at senior level, and I wish and believe that this hugely talented generation can win it.

“They have won the U-20 World Cup, the Olympic Games, and have come so close on three occasions to a major title. Very small details decided those matches, so I believe that this team has the potential to make the final step. Of course, they need to take it one step at a time, and qualify for Russia 2018.”

Sorin was effusive in his description of Messi – having seen him develop from close quarters in the dressing room from the start of his Argentina career.

“I remember Messi as a youngster at Germany 2006, and you could see he was different, a very unique talent. We treated him like a rare jewel because you could see his potential. There is no doubt now that he is the best player in the world.

“His intelligence on the pitch sets him apart from the others, you could see that in the recent El Clasico win in Madrid. He is the complete player, has incredible speed, finishing, passing vision, and sees the games much before others do. We’ve run out of superlatives to describe what Messi does.”

Looking ahead to the next generation of superstars, Sorin said a Brazilian was next in line, but added that a compatriot was catching up fast: “Neymar is on his way, and his development clearly shows that he wants to be the best in the world. Neymar is still in pole position, but Paulo Dybala is developing and adapting very fast.”