Lionel Messi has claimed that his record-breaking Instagram post proves that the footballing world were united behind him last winter.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar finally ended years of World Cup heartbreak to lift football’s biggest prize with Argentina in Qatar. In what was likely to be his final chance at glory, Messi won Player of the Tournament to drag La Albiceleste to another world crown.
The majority of neutrals were desperate for the little magician to finally lead Argentina to the trophy, helping to underline his credentials as the greatest player of all time. Following their dramatic penalty-shootout victory over France, there was an outpouring of emotion from across the globe.
That was made clear when a post he put up in the wake of their triumph became the most-liked in the history of the social media platform. Alongside a number of pictures of the forward and the trophy, Messi posted a touching message.
“So many times I dreamed it, so much I wanted it. I can't believe it,” the post read, “Thank you so much to my family, to all who support me and also to all who believed in us. We prove once again that Argentinians when we fight together and united we are able to achieve what we aim.
“The merit is of this group, which is above individuals, is the strength of all fighting for the same dream that was also the one of all Argentinians... We did it!!!”
The images quickly went viral, racking up more than 75 million likes in the days after the final. That saw him leapfrog his old rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the owner of the most liked sporting image in history, before taking over the full record - which was held by a picture of an egg.
Ronaldo had set the record for a sportsperson on the eve of the tournament, with a picture of the ex-Manchester United star playing chess with Messi. Last winter's competition was billed as the chance for the two foes to finally separate themselves from one another, having been inextricably linked for their entire careers.
And Messi thinks his social media record shows that the general population were all behind his bid for glory: “I didn't look for it either, because I wasn't looking to be the most liked photo, far from it. But hey, there it is,” he told infobae.
“It shows a little bit what people wanted to see me with that Cup. I think that photo reached people. The truth is that very few comments I could read. It is very difficult. I had a million messages and it ended up blocking me. It was crazy.”
As well as receiving support from the watching world, there were also some very notable messages of support from the sporting world, including Tiger Woods and Tom Brady - both GOATs in their own disciplines.
Speaking about their messages, he added: ”Very grateful because the names that came to put things on me are all world stars, number 1 in what they do.
“That at that moment they put something of mine, for me it is a great pride and I am very grateful to all those who did it. Something very nice that other athletes recognize you in those ways.”