Lionel Messi only played a total of 74 minutes in Argentina’s three Copa America Centenario group-stage matches. This was still enough to make him the competition’s joint-top scorer with (eliminated) Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho, but his three goals aren’t the reason his Argentina teammates think he is the key to them finally winning a trophy after two consecutive near misses. In fact, it has nothing to do with his otherworldly skill at all. It’s all down to the new hair on his face.
Messi started growing a beard at the start of the tournament and now Argentina have won all three of their matches, conceding one goal and scoring 10 — making them the best team in the tournament across the board. So, naturally, the Argentine players have concluded that this is because Messi has a beard, which they now treat with a spiritual reverence.
Messi told AS:
“If I lose the beard the others would kill me. We believe this is a kabbalah so we will be able to break our bad run and win the trophy”.
Argentina haven’t won Copa America since 1993, losing the final in 2004, 2007, and, of course, 2015. Add in their World Cup final loss in 2014 and you can see why they might put their faith in Messi’s chin whiskers.
The Messi Beard is not a merciful deity, though. Just ask Bolivia’s goalkeeper.