Lionel Messi retires from international football after yet another Copa America heartbreak
Football legend Lionel Messi announced his retirement from the national side on Sunday, moments after Argentina crashed to a defeat against Chile in the Copa America final
Argentine football legend Lionel Messi has sensationally announced his retirement from the national side on Sunday, moments after Argentina crashed to a defeat against Chile in the final of the Copa America.
“The national team is over for me," he told Argentine network TyC Sports after Sunday night’s match. “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,” he said.
The announcement came after Messi had blasted his penalty kick wide off the post, to give Chile the title, the second time in two years that they have defeated Argentina in the final of South America’s premier international football competition.
On Sunday, after 90 minutes failed to separate Argentina and Chile, the match went into extra-time and Lionel Messi stepped up to take the first penalty kick. However, he sent it high into the night sky, and though Arturo Vidal missed one for Chile to level scores, Lucas Biglia’s miss later in the shoot-out meant Argentina lost their third final in three years — following the 2014 World Cup defeat to Germany, and last year’s Copa America result.
Messi, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, winner of four Champions League titles and eight Spanish La Liga crowns with Barcelona, has often faced criticism on account of his failure to win titles with the Argentina side. Much of his nation had counted on him to bring home its first major title since 1993.
Messi's failure to match the achievements in the Argentina jersey of Diego Maradona, who single-handedly carried the team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, has often been held against him.
Maradona himself has often taken potshots at Messi, criticising him on the eve of the tournament for a perceived "lack of personality".
"He's a really good person, but he has no personality," Maradona said in Paris shortly before the start of Euro 2016. "He lacks the character to be a leader."
Messi's bombshell decision comes after a gruelling season which was disrupted by injury last year. He recovered to help Barcelona win the Spanish title once more and was relishing the prospect of leading Argentina to glory in the Copa America Centenario.
His commitment to playing for Argentina was reflected in his decision to fly from Spain to Argentina for a low-key friendly against Honduras shortly before the tournament, where he suffered a back injury.
He then returned to Spain to give evidence at his trial for tax fraud before jetting off to the United States to join up with his Argentina team-mates.
Although he was injured for his team's opening group game against Chile, he came on as a substitute in a 5-0 hammering of Panama to score a hat-trick in 19 minutes.
He then equalled Argentina's international goalscoring record of 54, held by Gabriel Batistuta, in the quarter-finals before setting a new mark with his 55th international goal in the semi-final win over the United States.
With agency inputs
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