Lionel Messi turns 31 on Sunday, though he might not be in the mood to celebrate.
The Barcelona superstar is in Russia with Argentina, whose World Cup campaign has been far from what was expected.
Messi received a kiss on the cheek from head coach Jorge Sampaoli as he took to the training pitch on his special day, while his friends from across football have taken to social media to wish him well.
But what might the Argentina skipper really want for his birthday? We’ve taken a cheeky guess…
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 24, 2018
WISH ONE: AN END TO HIS WORLD CUP WOES
At best Messi only has one more World Cup left in him. The fact he’s yet to win a senior trophy with Argentina – he’s lost four finals with the national team – is used as a stick to beat him with when it comes to ranking the greatest players of all time.
After a draw with Iceland and defeat to Croatia to start their campaign in Russia, he will no doubt be wishing Argentina avoid a humiliating group-stage exit. And if they’re going to do that, Messi’s target will surely be going one better than 2014 and winning the title.
Plus, it would stop Cristiano Ronaldo getting his hands on it!
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 21, 2018
WISH TWO: NEYMAR DOESN’T JOIN REAL MADRID
It seems crazy that less than a year after swapping Barca for Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee of €222million, Neymar is reportedly seeking a return to Spain.
To make it even more galling, the Brazil forward has been heavily linked with Barca’s arch-rivals Real Madrid!
We are pretty sure Messi won’t want his close friend crossing the divide and standing between him and future glories at Camp Nou.
WISH THREE: TASTE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SUCCESS AGAIN
Messi has lifted the Champions League just once in the past seven seasons.
During that time, Madrid have claimed four in the space of five years, including each of the last three.
Los Blancos’ most recent triumph saw Ronaldo take his personal haul to five – one more than Messi has managed.
Further success on European football’s grandest stage will certainly be on the agenda.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 16, 2018
WISH FOUR: BEAT RONALDO TO THE BALLON D’OR
The last player not named Messi or Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or was Kaka in 2007.
The duo’s dominance of the top level of world football has seen them claim the individual award five times apiece.
No player has ever won it six times, and becoming the first to do so by regaining it from Ronaldo would surely be sweet for Messi.
— France Football (@francefootball) December 7, 2017
WISH FIVE: COMPLETE AN UNBEATEN LEAGUE SEASON
Madrid and Athletic Bilbao enjoyed unbeaten LaLiga seasons when the division consisted of 10 teams in the 1930s, but no side has done it since the top flight doubled in size.
Barca came agonisingly close to doing so in 2017-18, losing their first match on the penultimate weekend – bizarrely going down 5-4 to Levante.
Going a whole domestic campaign without defeat would be a huge ask, particularly after going so close the year before, but when you’ve won as much as Messi, you’ll always be aiming for the highest possible target.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 13, 2018
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