World Cup final: When Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe go head to head do not overthink it, just count your blessings - Stuart Rayner comment
Because whilst the arguments rage over who is better – Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi or Diego Maradona – what is beyond dispute is as football fans we are incredibly fortunate to be alive in this era.
Every era has its great players and already Messi's successor is at centre stage. Even though you could argue his France team-mate Antoine Griezmann has had an even better tournament, there is no doubt Kylian Mbappe looks a true heir to the title of world's greatest footballer.
So Sunday's Argentina versus France World Cup final will either be won by a legend of the game, or one of the next legends.
It is impossible to really say how Messi stacks up against Ferenc Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano, Pele, Bobby Charlton, George Best, Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, either Ronaldo, Ronaldinho or anyone else you want to throw into the conversation.
It does not really matter. All were amazing players, who you prefer is just a matter of personal choice.
What matters is we got to marvel at Messi.
Ronaldo might be tarnishing his reputation in his latter years, but he too is a generational talent. Croatia's Luka Modric is also special.
I consider myself extremely fortunate that just over a year ago having realised I had not see one in the flesh, I was able to buy a ticket to a Paris Saint-Germain match. Messi did not have a great game, he did not even score, but it was still a privilege to see him. And Mbappe, of course.
But everyone who loves football in 2022 will at least have seen Messi on television. That is the big difference with Puskas, di Stefano, Pele, Eusebio, Charlton, Best, Beckenbauer, Cruyff and Maradona et al, very rare treats even on television.
Every professional game Messi played, every goal, every last bit of his finest work, has been captured on TV. Your grandchildren will never have to take your word for it.
Sadly, we are no longer watching peak Messi, rather an ageing genius walking around the pitch most of the time like a Sunday morning player clearing his head after a big Saturday night. It only makes the flashes of brilliance, such as those which decided the semi-final against Morocco, even more exciting.
Whether Messi, yet to win football's biggest prize, gets his fairytale ending remains to be seen. Modric, Ronaldo, Louis van Gaal, Dani Alves and possibly Neymar missed theirs.
If not, it will not be for a lack of effort from team-mates desperate to give him a proper send-off. Julian Alvarez has emerged as a star in his own right but his presence has made it easier for the little genius to flourish. Enzo Fernandez is excelling at the midfield donkey work.
Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday fans might recognise the bloke in Argentina’s goal, and take pride in the small part loans at their clubs played in Emiliano Martinez's development.
Ludicrously, it all means the team Saudi Arabia beat on day three of the competition are 90 minutes away from winning the whole shebang.
But a France success would be just as fantastical. Former World Cup-winning captain Didier Deschamps could become the first coach to retain it since Vittorio Pozzo in 1938.
This despite reigning Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema picking up an injury after he named his squad, as rising talent Christian Nkunku did. First-choice left-back Lucas Fernandez ruptured his anterior cruciate ligaments in the opening game to be replaced by his brother.
Deschamps at least had a bit more warning midfielders Ngolo Kante and Paul Pogba would miss out.
But a country whose footballers either seem to spectacularly fall out or spectacularly shine in every modern World Cup went for option two.
Griezmann, starting the season with his on-field minutes restricted so Atletico Madrid did not have to pay extra money for him, has been transformed from a top striker to brilliant box-to-box midfielder.
Theo has shown the second-best Fernandez is still pretty special, Olivier Giroud continues to take the mickey out of those who cannot see his talent, and Adrien Rabiot is more than making up for rejecting a late 2018 call-up because he did not want to be a spare part.
Mbappe has just been Mbappe, which after struggling at the last European Championship, is a relief.
Sunday could go either way.
In a tournament which has not so much defied logic at times as laughed in its face, best not to over-think what might happen.
Just sit back and enjoy probably your last chance to watch the seemingly USA-bound Messi on a truly elite stage, not to mention another opportunity to see the emergence of a new great in Mbappe.
The way this tournament came about was grubby and underhand, but park that for an afternoon and enjoy living through a truly special time to love football.