Don’t remember him in that stupid bloody robe. Not for now at least. Remember him walking up to the trophy the first time. Remember the way, unlike 2014 in the Maracana when he walked by head bowed, this time he stopped, caressed the round globed top of the World Cup and gave it the tenderest kiss, then a second for good measure.

The moronic Gianni Infantino and his Qatari paymasters were not the only ones to try to take this moment away from Lionel Messi. They were just the latest in the longest of lines. But they were also the last. Kylian Mbappe had tried harder than anyone in history but even his World Cup final hat-trick in this decider for the ages could not stop the little man.

So it was that Messi came bouncing across the stage clad in the bisht, a final act of Qatari sports-washing, to his team-mates to raise the thing that has been out of his reach for 17 years now. What a release.

You reckon there are probably a hundred and more different points in his career where he would have agreed to do it naked in front of the world’s biggest TV audience. Whatever it took, just to get his hands around it.

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For instance if you had asked him in the 81st minute when Mbappe ran past him at the centre circle, pumping his fist and staring down his elder PSG team-mate having scored twice in 95 seconds to stun Argentina, Lusail and the world.

Or if you had asked him again as the clock hit 118 minutes and Mbappe had once more found parity from pandemonium.

Finally, if you had asked him in the third minute of stoppage time of extra time as France’s Randal Muani raced in and looked certain to score the winner, only for Emi Martinez to pull off a wonder save. Messi would have done anything in all of those moments. Because he had already done everything.

Any wonder then that he barely let it go. His Argentine team-mates, more than perhaps any champions in the competition’s history, were content to have had one quick hold of the trophy and then leave it to him. How right it looked in his little hands. Martinez and substitute Gonzalo Montiel were the heroes when France finally succumbed on spot-kicks. Martinez had been heroic. Angel Di Maria, way back in the first hour (the boring one) of this final, had played his heart out for his captain too.

The Herald: Lionel Messi kisses the Jules Rimet trophyLionel Messi kisses the Jules Rimet trophy (Image: Getty)

That it ultimately came down to the two we had all breathlessly pitched opposite one another in the build-up was remarkable for two reasons: that stuff rarely if ever comes to pass, especially when there are so many other protagonists, and secondly, because Mbappe and France had not been in it for 70-odd minutes.

From that point on it was bedlam with two No.10s looking to find the moments of calm that would decide it. But calm had now left us, something that was for the daylight hours, not this chaotic night.

A Sunday evening kick-off offered the chance for a lot of leisurely wandering. Even four hours before the start, the area around this hovering, hulking golden bowl was a stream of humanity, people pouring off packed metro carriages, flowing past the stadium and up on to Lusail Boulevard. Just getting a look at the venue where fates would be decided was enough for so many. “I wasn’t at the greatest final ever but I got close enough.”

The boulevard is the host nation’s own version of Champs-Elysees in its own Qatari way — brand new, garishly lit, deafening loud muzak pumped in, almost all empty towers and blocks either side of a wide, sweeping street packed with people. It would later be packed as Argentina’s team bus brought the trophy up that way before the players had even changed.

Closer back to the stadium and in the hours before kick-off though, those with the golden tickets lingered outside. An Argentine fan swung a massive flag, which was swaying him with it. It was a simple effort — the national flag with two huge black and white digits in the middle: 10. There were hundreds of Argentine jerseys within the sight line. Any that had lettering and numbering had the same number and one of two names, Messi or Maradona. A cluster of a dozen or so French fans walked by and plenty were wearing 10. Four of them said Zidane, three Mbappe.

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Between the quartet you could draw a line all the way back to the 1982 World Cup, 40 years of football’s great gathering. Of the 10 finals there has been in that time, six have featured one of those 10s. And in so many ways, their careers have been defined by what they did or did not do on the tournament’s final day.

This night would be no different. The present 10s would deliver something that none of the previous could — a titanic battle between one another.

Messi had got out in front with an early penalty, rolled past Hugo Lloris. He played his own gorgeous part in an utterly gorgeous team goal finished by Di Maria and for 80 minutes it was all Argentina. Those packed in here were already thinking of those wedged into the streets back in the homeland, pondering what the homecoming would be like. Mbappe roused them out of the reverie and then took over. Over and back they went the rest of the way.

“The match was completely insane,” said Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni in one of his first post-match offerings. He had reach for many more words but those five summed it all up. The footage of him crumpling into a flood of tears also summed up how so many felt by the end, so utterly drained.

Messi was a man reborn, not 35 but 25, cavorting and chorusing with his team-mates and his countrymen. There was Sergio Aguero, bizarrely, in not quite full kit but close enough. He had been Messi’s emotional support companion for so long that it made a certain sense.

The Argentine players chanted and danced their way through the Mixed Zone on their way to the bus, the trophy of course still in Messi’s hands, as they ignored questions for now.

The Herald: Kylian Mbappe and Lionel MessiKylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (Image: Getty)

He had stopped for a brief moment to chat with Argentine TV earlier.

“It’s anyone’s childhood dream,” he said. “I was lucky to have achieved everything in this career and this one that was missing is here. It’s madness! Look how she [the World Cup] is, she’s gorgeous. I wanted her so much.”

He got her and he looked like he would not ever let her go now.

“We suffer, but [now] we have it,” Messi added. “I wanted to close my career with this, I can no longer ask for anything else, thank God, he gave me everything.”

Divine intervention or not, Messi gave everything too. On a night when we simply could not have asked for more, both of the talismen, had found something extra. But it was the most perfect 10 who left with it all.