Last night, after Argentina lost in the Copa America Final to Chile in penalties, Lionel Messi announced his retirement from the Argentina National Team. While just making a final with his national team would normally be a huge accomplishment, this is the third final in three years Argentina has lost in a major tournament. The last two being the World Cup in 2014 against Germany and last year in the Copa America against Chile.
While it could just be a reaction to losing his fourth final for Argentina, there is always the chance that it is something that he was thinking about going into the final. It could also be the effects of missing the first penalty for his country in the latest Copa America Final for Argentina. If it is permanent, there could be long lasting effects for Argentina, with another seven players who were involved in the tournament looking to leave as well.
Messi is a player who has won every trophy possible for his club team. Barcelona FC in Spain, which totals 16 major trophies. He moved from Argentina to Barcelona at the age of 11 to play in their legendary youth academy. “La Masia”, and made his first-team debut at 17. Having won the Ballon de’Or five time (best player in the world for that year) he is considered by some to be the best player in the history of the decorated club, if not the greatest to ever play the game.
Messi is endlessly compared to Argentine legend Diego Maradona,which is a lot to live up to, because he won the 1986 World Cup. Maradona is a hero to the people of Argentina because he grew up playing soccer in the streets and played professionally in the country for ten years, something that Messi didn’t do and is criticized for at times.
Messi and Argentina is a puzzle due to the public feeling that he is more Catalan than he is Argentinean. No matter what he is able to accomplish as an athlete, there is a feeling he will never be a “real” Argentinian. This may be what lies at the heart of his decision to retire from international play.
Keep in mind the AFA that controlled the Argentinian national team is now controlled by FIFA and if the government has to step in, Argentina could be disqualified from international play by FIFA so some of these players “retiring” from the team could be a sign of protest