He was surrounded by people that seemed certain that he did not; the Argentina captain was invited to scale the steps at the Maracana and receive the Golden Ball award not long after his side had been beaten by Germany in the World Cup final. He raised the golden trophy in acknowledgement of the applause, but it was not the prize he wanted.
The Golden Ball is given to the player deemed most outstanding at the World Cup. Were FIFA to have asked for a show of hands in Rio on Sunday night, Messi would not have won it. The Argentine stood alongside Manuel Neuer, the German having won the Golden Glove as best goalkeeper, while Colombia's James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot for most goals scored in the finals and Paul Pogba of France was named the best young player.
Messi seemed distracted as he posed with his trophy. He was perhaps trying to recall the moments which led to him receiving his consolation prize - the forward having scored four goals during the group stages but appearing far more subdued during the latter stages in Brazil. He did, of course, convert his penalty in the shootout win against the Netherlands in the semi-finals.
He had one good chance to score in the final and missed it and was not perceived as being the best player in the tournament. There were some suggestions afterwards that his success was not down to his value on the pitch. "I would give heaven and earth to Leo but when marketing people want him to win something he didn't [deserve to] win, it is unfair," said Diego Maradona, the winner of the Golden Ball when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986. "I could see that he didn't want to go up and collect it [the award]."
Messi is a prominent ambassador for sportswear manufacturer adidas, a company which is also an official FIFA partner. Maradona intimated that Rodriguez - a vibrant figure throughout the finals - was better suited to win the award.
The former Argentina manager acknowledged that he had been less certain about who would win the final, with the match decided only after Mario Goetze volleyed Germany ahead late in extra time.
"We raised our flag high, there's no doubt about that," Maradona added. "Germany won due to a misunderstanding in the defence but at no point were they better than us. They showed us a lot of respect and our lads earned that out on the pitch."
The post-mortem of Argentina's final defeat will continue this week, although it was clear immediately that they had spurned plenty of chances to score. Among the most culpable were Messi and Gonzalo Higuain, who did put the ball in the net once only to have strayed offside.
"The players are bitter and sad because we had a huge dream having made it all the way to the final," said Alejandro Sabella, the Argentina head coach. "We needed to be more clinical and I am sad just like the players. Beyond the pain of the defeat in the final they can look themselves in the eyes and say they gave everything for Argentina.
"We have an extraordinary group of players, these were warriors. I congratulated the players because they left every drop of sweat out on the field. They gave their all.
"I am very proud, the boys played an extraordinary World Cup and improved as they advanced through the stages. They gave everything for the Argentina jersey.
"That this was a very tough match, Germany started better and handled the ball well and is a great team. The match had its up and downs but we had the clearer chances. I congratulate my players for their extraordinary work and congratulate Germany on the title."
And he congratulated Messi on winning the Golden Ball, too. "He deserves it because he played an extraordinary World Cup," he said.