Just prior to the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi would have envisaged winning two trophies, maybe three if he was feeling greedy. First, the Golden Ball for the best player in the tournament (with the Golden Boot as an added bonus) and second, the most important of them all – the World Cup title, with Messi holding aloft that iconic trophy after skippering his side to victory in the final, probably over arch-rivals Brazil.
The one thing he would have absolute dreaded would have been to reach the final, lose the match, and then have to pick up the Golden Ball trophy as the opponents around his basked in the glory of being crowned world champions.
Unfortunately for this generation's most gifted player, the script decided to take the nightmare route – with Messi having to watch Mario Gotze score an absolute peach of a winner -- the kind of goal that everyone expected Messi to score -- in extra time, and then stand around in despair as Germany celebrated their first World Cup win since 1990. The walk to pick up the Golden Ball trophy as well as the consolation silver medal would have been the most difficult and painful one the little maestro would have taken in his glittered career.
It was an evening at the Maracana which could have been so different had Argentina taken their chances. Gonzalo Higuain missed an absolute sitter, and so did Messi, by his exalted standards. Had that ball nestled into the bottom corner right at the start of the second half after pinging off the foot of the little magician, how different that script might have read.
But that is the beauty of the final isn't it – so many "oh if onlys", so many moments to look back upon and think, "why didn't I just do that". For Messi, who, to be honest, probably wasn't the best player in the World Cup, considering he did not score a single goal after the group stages, this 2014 World Cup final will now forever be filled with those "if onlys". And try as he might, that feeling will not go away; at least not until he gets another crack at winning the World Cup in four years' time.
The final in Rio De Janeiro began in such promising fashion for Messi, with the Argentina talisman making a searing run down the right, leaving one of the best defenders in the world in Mats Hummels for dead, before seeing his centre cleared away.
Another ridiculously breathtaking run down the right again left Germany in trouble and on another day the ball might have tricked past the goalline.
So, the signs were there that this just might be Messi's and with it inevitably Argentina's day, all it needed was a bit more luck and that authoritative swing of the left boot. The swing came in the second minute of the second half, but almost unbelievably the ball flew the wrong side of the post.
After that missed opportunity, Messi's influence in the game decreased, and with it Argentina's hopes as that German machine grew stronger and stronger.
It could have still been different, of course, had Rodrigo Palacio managed to fashion a better finish in extra time, with Argentina desperate to score the winner in the additional 30 to avoid the Germany-never-lose-it penalty shootout.
Yet, with the score still at 0-0, and with the match heading into the shootout, Messi could still dream of striking the decisive penalty, only for that fickle fate and the brilliance of Gotze to bring those dreams crashing down in a hurry.
Messi, even if he will be 31, will probably have his moment again, when the World Cup takes shape in Russia in 2018. But until then, the player, who has given so much joy for every single football fan with his ridiculous skills, will have to wait to earn the right to be compared to the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona.