Lionel Messi, arguably the best footballer in the world, may never play in Argentine colors again. Following Sunday’s loss to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final, the Barcelona forward told the media that he will be retiring from international football.
Argentina, with 18 goals, were the highest goal scorers of the tournament. But they lost the final on Sunday 4-2 on penalties to Chile, after the match ended goalless after 120 minutes of play. The Argentine captain, Lionel Messi, stood up to take the first penalty in the shootout at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, but shockingly skied his shot.
Messi’s Barcelona teammate, Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, saved another penalty from Lucas Biglia, to crown his nation as champions of the 2016 Copa América Centenario.
Last night’s loss to Chile was Messi’s third consecutive loss as an Argentine captain in the final match of a major International tournament. Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, and 4-1 on penalties to Chile in last year’s Copa America. All this pressure was apparently building up on Messi, as the current Ballon D’Or holder told reporters that he would be retiring from international football at the age of 29.
“It’s tough, it’s not the time for analysis. In the dressing room I thought that this is the end for me with the national team, it’s not for me. That’s the way I feel right now, it’s a huge sadness once again and I missed the penalty that was so important.”
The fortunes of Messi, who is cited by many as the greatest footballer of all time, for club and country have been drastically different. While he has failed to win any major trophy with Argentina, except the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with his club, F.C. Barcelona, he has won 8 La Liga titles, 4 Champion’s League titles and 4 Copa del Rey titles.
“I tried so hard to be a champion with Argentina. But it didn’t happen. I couldn’t do it. I think it’s best for everyone, for me and for many people who want it. The choice for me is over, it is a decision. I tried many times to be a champion but could not.”
And with their latest loss, Argentina’s 23-year long trophy drought looks to continue. Lionel Messi had been downgraded by several Argentine fans, who claim that he doesn’t gives “his 100 percent” as an Argentine player. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has been accused of lacking the same enthusiasm he shows as a Barcelona player.
Argentina coach Gerardo Matino spoke about Messi’s decision to retire.
“The burden of the losing consecutive finals has been accumulating these last two years. He feels like you would expect a player to feel after playing and losing a final.”
Argentina legend, Diego Maradona, who won the world cup with Argentina in 1986, and who coached Messi in the 2010 World Cup, has also given his opinion on the issue.
“Messi has to stay in the national team. He will go to Russia in form to be world champion. He has to rely more on boys who can help take the team forward and less on those who say they have to go. Those who are saying he should quit are doing it so that we won’t see what a disaster Argentine football has become.”
While the news of the retirement of their most talented player may be shocking to all Argentina fans, there could yet still be more bad news headed their way. ESPN sources have reported that Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano, and Lucas Biglia are also considering retirement.
Leo Messi became Argentina’s all time top goalscorer last week, following a magnificent goal from a spot-kick against USA. Some have seen his retirement as a consequence to his resentment of the Argentine football federation (AFA). The AFA, which is notorious for its corruption, was taken over by FIFA on Friday.
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