Argentina suffered yet another final defeat on Sunday night, suffering a Copa America final defeat against Chile on penalties following a 0-0 draw in normal and extra-time.
The failure was one too many for star player Lionel Messi, who revealed after the game that he has decided to retire from international football.
The defeat was compounded by the fact that the Barcelona star missed a penalty kick in the 4-2 spot-kick defeat.
Decided to retire after the defeat
Talking after the game Messi told the media: “It’s tough, it’s not the time for analysis,”
“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. I tried many times [to be a champion] but did not.”
The decision may have been a hasty one and the forward may reconsider the decision when he is not caught-up in the emotion, but it will be a bad blow for the Argentinian national team.
A habit of losing finals
Argentina now has a habit of losing a final every summer, which must be galling for everybody involved. In 2014 it was a World Cup final defeat, last summer it was a Copa America defeat against Chile and this summer was a repeat of last summer’s frustrating defeat.
There seems to be some sort of psychological block now that comes with playing in big finals for Argentina players. Messi is accustomed to winning finals and trophies with Barcelona at club level and there is a different mentality at the Catalan club.
Messi along with a number of his international teammates seem to have become tired of being second best and called it a day for the national team. Argentina has now failed to win silverware at international level for 23-years and even the presence of the majestic Messi could not break that cycle.
Messi may have missed a penalty, but he is only one man and needed some of his teammates to step-up in the final against a stubborn Chile side. The problem with the Argentinian side has not been the quality of the players in recent years, but the fact that they have not been mentally strong enough in finals.
The third consecutive lost final obviously affected the players badly and Messi showed a lot of emotion at the end of the game.
Always in Diego Maradona’s shadow
It was almost inevitable that Messi would be compared to former-Argentina legend Diego Maradona. His nationality, his position and the fact that he is considered to be among the best, if not the best player ever to have graced a football pitch.
Messi has never really been embraced fully by his country, maybe because he moved away from his national country before he even played senior club football there. He is almost considered as Spanish as he is Argentinian by people in his homeland.
Maradona was a completely different sort of animal to Messi. He had the charisma, but he also had a dark side to his personality and his game made him box office. He could carry a team on his shoulders and influence his teammates. He affected everybody around him.
Maradona enjoyed some of his biggest successes with Napoli in Italy, not a major player traditionally in the Italian game, so he had to lift the team on his own. Messi’s situation at Barcelona is completely different he wins every week and plays with world-class teammates, so he is used to winning, but not losing.
Messi is the best player I have ever seen, but that may be because I only saw Maradona in the dying embers of his career. I was not lucky enough to witness him at his peak. Maybe Messi does just lack that slight mental strength compared to Maradona.
Lionel Messi is my favourite player of all time and he’ll be the player I will be telling my grandkids about in 20 or 30 years’ time.
His decision to retire from international football at the age of 29-year-old has to be respected, but I cannot help thinking that there is still more to come from the magic little man on the international stage.
He may make a U-turn and play for his country again and hopefully he does, but if he does then I sense there he may well just live to regret the decision years down the line.
Is Lionel Messi right to retire from international football?