“If Messi had played for Uruguay at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we would have won the title,” Lugano, who made 95 appearances for the Celeste as an attacking centre-back before hanging up his boots after Brazil 2014, told reporters.

The Uruguay national team with Messi would be very different

Former Uruguay captain Diego Lugano believes that if Lionel Messi had been born on the northern shores of the Rio de la Plata, Uruguay would have strolled to back-to-back FIFA World Cup glory. Messi competed in four world championships for Argentina, hitting once in the final 16 stages, twice in the quarters and, in 2014, fighting to the last where the Albiceleste lost out to Germany. But if he had the famously fierce and committed stars of Uruguay behind him, Lugano argues, the story would be very different. “If Messi had played for Uruguay at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, we would have won the title,” Lugano, who made 95 appearances for the Celeste as an attacking centre-back before hanging up his boots after Brazil 2014, told reporters.

“And if Messi had been Uruguayan in Brazil and Luis Suarez hadn’t been kicked out, we would have won too.” Lugano participated in both the South Africa and Brazil campaigns for Uruguay, captaining the nation on each occasion. In 2010, Oscar Tabarez’s side made it to the semi-finals, where they lost a spectacular 3-2 defeat to the Netherlands. Four years later, the Celeste knocked out Italy and England to finish second in a group containing three previous World Cup winners. However, in the process, Suarez took his infamous bite on Giorgio Chiellini and missed Uruguay’s last -16 clash as the Celeste fell 2-0 to Colombia. Lugano’s men do boast one achievement that has eluded Messi: Copa America glory, sealed in 2011 in Argentina after dumping the holders on penalties in the last eight.

The two Rioplatense rivals will next meet on June 17 in the 2021 Copa America at Cordoba’s Estadio Mario Kempes.