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Come join the cult of Lionel Messi

He only came on as a sub for Argentina. That’s all the fans needed.

Soccer: 2016 Copa America Centenario-Argentina at Bolivia Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Argentina had nothing to play for in their final Copa América Centenario group game in Seattle. Bolivia was the worst team in the tournament and La Albiceleste only needed a draw to win the group. Head coach Gerardo Martino mixed up his starting XI to test options for the knockout stage. Argentina finished the game with a laughable 87 percent possession and it was over before it began.

Yet, one was missing. The crowd of over 45,000 still yearned for their savior, the one man who could bring grown men to tears and children to rend their garments. All 45,000 of them screamed his name throughout the first 45 minutes, and even the Fox feed tacitly admitted that no greater thrill came than watching one diminutive Barcelona forward lace up his kicks.

Argentina had no reason to play Lionel Messi on Tuesday. The coach may have wanted to build his star’s fitness after his recent back troubles, all the better to ready him for the knockout stage. But let’s be real -- there was only one celestial body around which Argentina, Bolivia and all the fans revolved, and that was Messi.

It wasn’t just the fans, either. Sober journalists, whose responsibility is to judge the performance on the pitch with clear-eyed objectivity, couldn’t contain themselves.

Even Messi knew that there were no stakes on the night other than his own wizardry. He straight humiliated dudes without even scoring.

Cristiano Ronaldo may be the richest and most famous athlete in the world, but Ronaldo rarely has to console a pitch invader who can barely contain their religious fervor. Ronaldo is a brand. Messi is a brand-plus-holiness, which is basically how one would describe every messiah throughout history. (His saintly beard was a nice touch, too.)

Even in a meaningless game like Tuesday's, where one team toyed with the other like a cat with a dying mouse, the crowd screamed for blessings from the godhead. They were anointed with his mere presence.