Lionel Messi played in his fourth final with Argentina yesterday, but it was the same story, another final, another failure. The devastated star was disconsolate after watching his country lose on penalties in the final of the Copa America to Chile (again). The shocks weren’t over however, as Messi then told press after the game that the match would be his last for Argentina. “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. 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.” It seems that Messi can no longer carry his nation any further and the frustrations he has experienced have reached breaking point.
Lionel Messi is the greatest player on planet Earth with 5 Ballon D’Or’s and arguably one of the greatest to have ever played the game. His records at club level are unsurmountable. Even his greatest rival Cristiano Ronaldo has not matched what the small man from Rosario has achieved. With Barcelona, he has won eight La Liga titles, four Champions League’s and numerous Copa Del Rey’s (I lost count!). In 531 appearances for the Catalonians he garnered 455 goals! His appearances in the stripes of FC Barcelona have been watched all over the world and drooled at by fans and peers.
But Messi has ever been able to match the success in the stripes of the nation of his birth. Despite winning a Gold Medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing, an honour which puts him alongside some of the greats in World Sport, there has been nothing but disappointment since. Four finals in nine years has only brought silver for Messi and Argentina. They lost the final of the World Cup in 2014, despite Messi winning player of the tournament as well as three Copa America’s. One to Brazil and now twice to Chile.
The pain was etched on the face of the little man when they lost yesterday. After a 0-0 stalemate penalties ensued and Messi missed his, blazing way over. Chile’s Arturo Vidal had missed and Messi’s shot would have put the South American’s in pole position to achieve what he has always wanted. Unfortunately, Lucas Biglia’s later penalty was saved and Chile’s final attempt was slotted away by Francisco Silva to deny Argentina. Leo looked physically shocked as he stared into space, it was as if he had seen a ghost. He sat in the dugout alone during the ceremonies and you could see that maybe the end of the road had come for him and Argentina. Goalkeeper Sergio Romero hopes this is not the case though, “I think he spoke while he was heated, because a beautiful opportunity escaped us. I can’t imagine a national team without Messi.”
Messi while in my opinion the best player in the world, cannot put himself under such pressure. Many people seem to forget in this era of superstars that football is still reliant on a team game. Even Maradona was not alone, he had Mario Kempes for example. Pele’s entire international career were surrounded by some of the best players in the world as well as him, think Garrincha in 1962. Messi International career has coincided with a slump in standard from Argentina, particularly in defence. While Aguero and Tevez have been World class talents, they don’t prevent goals being conceded. I believe Messi will return because of an inevitable national backlash to his decision but I hope that when he does, he lays less pressure on himself to win a trophy and play with a smile on his face and elevate the players around him. This may even help hime realise his dream of success Argentina.