Barcelona and Argentina striker Lionel Messi — considered by many to be the greatest footballer currently in the game — has said he is quitting international football following his national team crashing out of the Copa America final against Chile after he missed a penalty.
“It’s not meant for me,” he said, speaking to Argentinian TV network TyC after the match. “For me the national team is over. I’ve done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion. It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
“I think this is best for everyone,” he added. “First of all for me, and then for everyone. I think there’s a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it.”
The news may surprise people given Messi’s relatively young age — he turned 29 just two days ago — but the statistics appear to agree with him. Since being with Barcelona, he has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. But with Argentina he has only won a 2008 Olympic gold medal, and last night marked yet another defeat in a major final.
Argentina fans have frequently expressed dismay at Messi’s disparate performances at club and international level, a sentiment compounded by football legend and Argentine World Cup winner Diago Maradona, who said just before the tournament that Messi was “a really good person, but he has no personality. He lacks the character to be a leader.”
Some are now worried that Messi’s apparent retirement could spark a domino effect of other Argentine players quitting the team, with Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero saying the Chile final hit the team hardaccording to the Daily Mail:
“Messi probably won’t be the only player to leave the national team,” he said. “There are various players who are considering quitting. This is the worst I’ve seen the dressing room. Worse than after the other two finals [the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America].”
But Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero thought it may be too soon to say if Messi would actually quite the international stage, saying that he thought Messi “spoke in the heat of the moment because such a great opportunity escaped us.”
The news comes after a tough year for Messi, who was recently trial for allegedly defrauding Spain of €4.1 million (£3 million; $4.6 million) in unpaid taxes.