For Argentina fans, the heartbreak of losing the Copa America final to Chile was magnified a thousandfold by the shock that followed — Lionel Messi announcing that he was retiring from international football.
The five-time ‘Player of the Year’, and arguably the best-loved football star in the world, a bearded Messi was visibly strained on Sunday night after Argentina lost 4-2 in the penalty shootout against Chile, who retained the title for the second year running. Messi left the pitch in tears after missing a crucial penalty. This is the fourth time his country has been defeated in a major tournament.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino, did not give any hint about what was to come, but after Messi’s announcement, he said he understood what the team captain was going through. “He feels the way any football player must feel when he gets to the final and loses.”
As for Messi, in an interview, the 29-year-old legend said he tried so hard to be Brazil’s Pele and Argentina’s Diego Maradona, but failed because he could not win a championship trophy for his country.
Hailed by sports commentators and fans as one of the best players of all time, Messi has been peculiarly unlucky in leading his team to any major triumph on the global football circuit. Also, the recent scandal regarding offshore investments made by his father to avoid taxes has taken a toll on his nerves, although Messi denied any knowledge of the deals.
Argentina supporters were looking forward to him, in a couple of years, leading his country’s national side into the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but that is yet another hope dashed.