Belal Ahmed, pictured here on November 26, has traveled to Doha, Qatar, to watch Lionel Messi play for the first time.
Doha, Qatar CNN  — 

Walk around Doha and it isn’t long before you hear people talking about Lionel Messi.

Reminders of the superstar are everywhere at Qatar 2022; from posters in Metro stations to Argentina jerseys hanging up on market stalls.

Thousands of people – creating a sea of blue and white – have come to watch their hero in what is likely to be his last World Cup tournament.

It seems you don’t need to be from Argentina to be a fan of the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.

“I get to see the man himself,” Belal Ahmed, who has traveled from the US to watch Messi play, told CNN Sport.

“It took a while, the flight from the US to Saudi Arabia was about 12 hours. I had a layover there for 24 hours and then got here [Doha] two hours later.

“I’m here to see other games, but yeah, mainly to see Messi.”

Ahmed was dressed head-to-toe in Argentina’s colors as he spoke to CNN in Souq Waqif, an area of downtown Doha popular with fans.

He was one of many exploring the traditional marketplace wearing a Messi shirt, something which always attracts attention from fans of other teams.

Messi is a name that seems to bridge any language barrier, with fans coming over and chanting his name as Ahmed speaks to CNN.

READ: For Messi and Ronaldo, a final shot at World Cup glory

The 23-year-old has traveled thousands of miles with his friends to watch his favorite player play live for the first time, and he spoke excitingly about what Messi means to him.

“It’s his game. The skill speaks for itself,” Ahmed said.

“It doesn’t matter what nation you’re from, when you see that he’s mastered the art of the sport itself. What’s not to like about him?

“He’s a very humble man as well. His personality doesn’t turn you off. Everything about him, especially his demeanor, is very attractive.

“But it’s mainly his skills on the field. If Messi was an average player and his personality is what it is, I don’t think he’d get that much attraction. I’m just so excited to see him play.”

Lionel Messi has captivated fans at Qatar 2022.

Messi is undoubtedly the most popular player among fans in Doha, with everyone trying to find a ticket to watch him in the flesh.

After a disappointing start to this year’s World Cup against Saudi Arabia, Messi showed his brilliance against Mexico with a scintillating goal to inspire his side to victory.

He must now do it again against Poland in his team’s final Group C game on Wednesday to ensure progression into the knockout stages.

The World Cup is the only trophy not yet in Messi’s cabinet, and the 35-year-old is in the last chance saloon at Qatar 2022.

“I think to solidify his GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] status he needs the World Cup,” Ahmed added.

“I’d say he’s the GOAT already, but for everyone to be on the same boat, he’s going to need that World Cup.”

Messi in Qatar

Messi’s presence around Doha doesn’t only demonstrate the superstar’s pulling power, but also reinforces his current club Paris-Saint Germain’s links to Qatar.

The French side is owned by the Qatar Sports Investment group and posters of its star players, such as Neymar and Messi, are plastered all around the city.

The Argentine is also used in adverts shown on big screens inside stadiums ahead of every game at Qatar 2022 and his name is cheered by fans in bars and restaurants.

“I think the football Messi plays is mesmerizing. You can’t compare him, he’s beyond comparison,” Ratish Ravindran, who is from the UK but was wearing an Argentina shirt, told CNN.

Ravindran had not managed to get his hands on a ticket to watch Argentina play, but he still wanted to be in the city to support his hero.

He’s enjoyed watching matches on the big screens dotted around Doha and celebrating Messi with the thousands of other fans around the city.

“The amount he’s won already in his career, it’s great. For me, he’s the best player in the world,” Ravindran added.

Argentina certainly seems to be the neutrals’ favorite team in Qatar and all its fans, from across the world, will be hoping to see more Messi magic as the tournament progresses.