Lionel Messi given new nickname by Argentina team-mates after inspiring his side to the World Cup final

RODRIGO DE PAUL hailed Lionel Messi as “The Beast” for inspiring Argentina to the World Cup final.

Yet again, Messi delivered when his team needed it, scoring the first goal from the spot, playing his part in the second and brilliantly creating the third in the 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia.

Rodrigo De Paul (left) says Argentina stars are calling Lionel Messi ‘The Beast’ after inspiring their World Cup final runGetty

Atletico Madrid midfielder De Paul said: “Luckily, we have The Beast.

“We play for our country, but for us Leo is our captain, our leader, he’s like an older brother, I will always defend him.

“Few know what he does to always be the best and I’m very happy for him.

“After everything that’s happened, I want him to be the one who enjoys it the most. He deserves it a lot.”

De Paul, 28, is also delighted for the whole of Argentina.

Three weeks after being beaten 2-1 on the same pitch by Saudi Arabia in their opening game, the team earned the right to return to the Lusail Stadium for Sunday’s final against France.

De Paul said: “That first game was a hard blow.

“We locked ourselves in a room and had a very good talk that will stay with me forever.


“We had a lot of belief and we came here on the back of winning the Copa America. After that first blow, each game was a final because we had to win no matter what

“The reality is that we play for the love of the colours, of the shirt, of our country, something it is difficult to express in words.

“But I’m sure that the many people who balance their problems with football, they forget everything when they see us play.

“Making them happy is a power and a pleasure for us that gives us a lot of pride.

“I am living a dream that is impossible to describe.

“I must be the happiest person in the world because I’m going to play a World Cup final, with my family, my girlfriend who backs me so much.

“We play for our country, but for us Leo is our captain, our leader, he’s like an older brother, I will always defend him.

De Paul on Messi

“We also need that support, we have many problems, but when we went out onto the field with this shirt we forgot everything.”

Julian Alvarez is also overwhelmed by what he and the team have achieved.

The young Manchester City star came into the tournament as understudy to Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez.

But he is now first choice to play alongside Messi and scored twice against Croatia, as well as winning the penalty from which the captain gave Argentina the lead on Tuesday.

Alvarez, 22, said: “Many things are going through my head, many. We are all, like, crazy

“It’s very exciting to see all this, the people, my family, everything during this World Cup has been incredible.

“We deserve to be in the final. We are happy like the whole country and we are going for more.”

Messi, 35, confirmed again after the semi-final that Sunday would be his final World Cup game.

His penalty against Croatia took him to 11 goals at the finals — one more than previous Argentinian record-holder Gabriel Batistuta. He also has three assists to take his finals tally to eight.

But what he really wants is to emulate Diego Maradona and lift the trophy as Argentina captain in a glorious finale to his career on the world stage.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Messi said: “What we’ve done is something impressive. It is the sixth final that we are going to play in our history.

“Beyond winning or losing, people understand they have to enjoy themselves and that this whole process in this group was extraordinary, winning the Copa America and reaching the final now.”

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