‘That’s it- It’s over for me with the National team. It’s not for me. That’s four finals.’
These words echo the sentiments of a champion, who simply could’nt believe his hard luck, not once or twice but four times.
Messi has retired.
He has retired as the highest-scorer for Argentina with 55 goals in 113 appearances but managed to lose four finals, with the latest Copa America defeat to Chile completing an embarrassing hat trick of lost finals.
Surely, Lionel has a messy exit, whose only career highlight for Argentina remains winning the 2008 Olympic Gold medal. A massive underachievement considering he has won everything under the sun when it comes to individual honours and club football.
However, the unexpected announcement has polarized opinion on Messi once again: Is he taking ownership of the defeat or is he being too emotional and quitting the national team before winning the World Cup?
The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
It was largely due to Messi that Argentina reached the World Cup final in 2014, but being second best isn’t easy for a player whose trophy cabinet is laden with honours.
Messi is the only football player in history to win five FIFA Ballons d’Or, four of which he won consecutively. Hold on, his illustrated career with Barcelona has already seen him winning eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles, as well as four Copa del Rey.
But, at 29, Messi surely has enough fuel in his tank to be part of 2018 World Cup. In fact, he can go one better to win the much eluded World Cup.
Argentina President Mauricio Macri has spoken with Lionel Messi over the phone to try to convince the Barcelona star to reconsider his decision to quit the national team.
Maradona himself recently accused Messi of having “no personality.” But he too threw his support behind Messi after he vowed to quit, and added: “Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion.”
The news has prompted a campaign across social media, urging the football star not to quit. Argentine President Mauricio Macri was one of millions to tweet using the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio [Don’t Go Lio], one of many hashtags to have emerged following Messi’s announcement.
Football rarely follows a script. For all the Messi fans, the hope of one of the greatest footballers ever to don the Argentina jersey once again remains a hope. But, to see Messi return for a last hurrah would be great but wouldn’t it be a gamble. Another loss in a big final would irreparably taint the little master’s legacy. A Messy exit, one more time can be an even bigger disaster.