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Views: 61673 Description: Consumed by frustration, anger and emotion, soccer superstar Lionel Messi suggested Sunday that he would retire from the Argentine national team.
After losing to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final at MetLife Stadium, the third consecutive summer Argentina has fallen one game short of a major championship, the greatest player of his generation told reporters his international career might be over.
“It’s incredible the fact that we can’t win it,” he said. “It happened to us again and by penalty kicks. It’s the third consecutive final. We tried and it wasn’t for us. It is difficult in this moment to do any sort of analysis. In the locker room, I thought the national team is not for me. It’s what I feel right now. It’s a great sadness that it happened to me again.
“I missed a penalty kick that was very important. It’s for the good of everybody. It wasn’t enough just to get to the final and not win. I’ve tried very hard to be champion with Argentina. It hasn’t happened. I am not able to do it.”
Messi, the five-time FIFA world player of the year, has reached unprecedented feats with FC Barcelona but continues to chase his first major trophy with Argentina. Two years ago, he and La Albiceleste lost in extra time to Germany in the World Cup final in Brazil. Last year, they fell to host Chile on penalty kicks in the Copa final.
On Sunday, two days after celebrating his 29th birthday, he skied Argentina’s first penalty kick attempt well over the crossbar. Chile went on to win the tiebreaker, 4-2, after a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes.
So did he mean what he said, that he’s done after 11 years, 113 international appearances and an Argentine-record 55 goals? Or were his comments merely in the heat of the moment, a knee-jerk reaction, words that he’ll take back or clarify in the coming days? Any decision regarding his Argentine status would have no bearing on his career with Barcelona, where he has won eight La Liga and four UEFA Champions League titles.
This much is clear: The absence of a significant international trophy is weighing heavily on him. Aside from leaving his country disappointed, Messi has a glaring piece missing from his sterling portfolio: no World Cup or Copa America crown.
Messi’s place in soccer history is undeniable, but to many fans, the international shortfalls leave him behind Pele and Diego Maradona among the greatest players ever. Pele won three World Cups with Brazil, Maradona one with Argentina.
“There’s nothing we haven’t already said about the weight these [championship] matches bear over us the past few years,” Argentine Coach Gerardo Martino said. “He is like any player who gets to the final and loses. Certainly to lose again is too painful to feel any differently.”
Messi has also grown increasingly frustrated with the Argentine football association, which has suffered from political power struggles, organizational issues and financial problems. This week, after the team flight to New Jersey from Houston was delayed several hours, Messi wrote on his Instagram account: “What a disaster the AFA is, for God’s sake.”
Several others on the squad have voiced frustration with the AFA.
Messi did win an Olympic gold medal in 2008, but Olympic soccer is an under-23 tournament that doesn’t carry the prestige of senior competitions.
In this Copa America, after skipping the group opener with a back injury, Messi posted five goals and four assists. He had a 19-minute hat trick against Panama and recorded a goal and two assists in both the quarterfinal against Venezuela and semifinal against the United States.
Argentina’s next major competition would be the 2018 World Cup in Russia. South American qualifying will resume in September. Argentina is currently third with 11 points from six matches. Each nation will play 18 games. Four teams will qualify and a fifth will enter a playoff.
“Besides having admiration for Messi, I really guide myself by the numbers because I know what it is to value certain numbers,” said Chilean Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, a native of Argentina. “Messi’s numbers [for Barcelona and Argentina] cannot be equaled. They will not be equaled for life. It’s impossible for a football player to achieve the things that Messi achieved.
“Beyond that, people sometimes are very particular when it comes to valuing certain things over others. I believe Messi is the best player in history. Maybe from my generation, we’re now able to compare him to Maradona because of what Maradona did for Argentine football. But I do think he’s the best player in history. The numbers are irrefutable.”messi....
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