Lionel Messi struck the 800th goal of his remarkable career and lifted the World Cup trophy one more time in Buenos Aires, telling all of Argentina to enjoy this footballing prosperity while it lasts.
His landmark strike came in a 2-0 friendly win against Panama on Thursday at El Monumental, as Argentina played their first game since triumphing at Qatar 2022.
They showed off their World Cup spoils after the final whistle, with Messi addressing the crowd and saying it was a moment he had dreamt of throughout his life.
Messi, who turns 36 in June, delivered another inspired performance for his country, hitting the crossbar with two free kicks before sending another into the top corner in the 89th minute.
That brought up the 800 for club and country and sealed Argentina's win, after Thiago Almada bagged the opener in the 78th minute. It was also Messi's 99th goal for Argentina.
With a microphone in his right hand, and his left placed on the trophy, Messi told the crowd: "I want to thank you for all the love we are receiving, not just for winning the World Cup but from before, when we won the Copa America.
"I always dreamed of this moment, being able to celebrate with you in this country. Let's enjoy it because we spent a long time to win it, and because you don't know how long it will take until we win it again. Let's enjoy the third star."
Paris Saint-Germain's former Barcelona star won the Golden Ball at the World Cup for his efforts in captaining Argentina to glory. That is the trophy awarded to the player of the tournament.
Argentina won the World Cup previously in 1978 and 1986, with a 36-year wait coming to an end when La Albiceleste beat France on penalties in the December 18 final, after a 3-3 draw.
#SelecciónMayor Lionel Messi: "Primero que nada, darles las gracias a todos por el cariño que venimos recibiendo. Hace tiempo decimos que íbamos a hacer todo lo posible por ganar un Mundial". pic.twitter.com/Ufo1GayjTO— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 24, 2023
Messi will almost certainly have retired from international duty by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2026, marking the end of a storied era.
He was keen to spread the latest acclaim throughout the Argentina ranks.
"I know that today is our day, but I don't want to forget all those colleagues I had before, who also did everything possible to get this one, and unfortunately it didn't happen to us, we were very close," he said. "They also deserve respect and recognition.
"We were going to do everything we could for this. I always dreamed of this moment, being able to come to my country and lift the World Cup. It was shown that it is very difficult to achieve this, it depends on many things. Sometimes due to small details it gets away from you.”