The CONMEBOL exhibit will have a statue of Lionel Messi next to those of Maradona and Pele.

The CONMEBOL exhibit will have a statue of Lionel Messi next to those of Maradona and Pele.

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By leading Argentina to World Cup success last year, Lionel Messi emerged from Diego Maradona’s shadow, and at the Museum of the South American federation, a statue of the diminutive forward will stand next to those of the Brazilian legend Pele and his predecessor.

Messi stood next to the life-size statue holding a replica of the World Cup trophy at an unveiling event at the CONMEBOL headquarters in Luque, Paraguay before the Copa Libertadores draw on Monday.

By leading Argentina to their first World Cup victory in 36 years in Qatar in December, the 35-year-old paid tribute to the late Maradona.

“I had never dreamed or thought about this,” Messi said. “My dream was to enjoy what I liked when I was little, to be a professional soccer player, to do what I always loved in this life.”

“I had a very long road, many decisions, and defeats, but I always looked ahead and wanted to go for a triumph, for a victory.

“I think that is the most important thing, to fight for your dreams, that everything is possible and to enjoy the game, which is the most beautiful thing there is.”

The Argentina players and coach Lionel Scaloni also received miniature trophies of the World Cup and the Copa America, which they won in 2021.

Two days after Messi scored his 800th career goal in a 2-0 friendly victory over Panama, the Argentine Football Federation renamed the national team’s practice complex after him on Saturday.

If Messi scores in Tuesday’s friendly against Curacao, he will have tallied 99 goals for Argentina, making him the first player to reach the century mark.

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