EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Barcelona star Lionel Messi might never play for Argentina again, after Sunday night’s Copa America final loss to Chile.
Argentina lost 4-2 on penalties to Chile after a 0-0 draw in MetLife Stadium, and an emotional Messi said after the match that his career with the national team is over.
“My thinking right now and thinking about it in the locker room, I’m done playing with the national team,” he told a group of reporters, including ESPN’s Diego Monroig.
Asked if he were retiring, the 29-year old said, “I tried my hardest. It’s been four finals, and I was not able to win. I tried everything possible. It hurts me more than anyone, but it is evident that this is not for me. I want more than anyone to win a title with the national team, but unfortunately, it did not happen.”
Messi, who lost the 2014 World Cup final and three Copa America finals while playing for Argentina, was then asked if he would wear his country’s shirt again.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I’ve thought about it. Like I said earlier, I tried everything possible to win. And that’s it. It’s four finals lost.”
Now that Messi has gone on record with his intention to end his international career, several of his long-time international colleagues could follow. Sources have told ESPN’s Diego Monroig that Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia are also planning to retire. Additionally, Ever Banega, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain are also considering their international futures, according to multiple reports.
Aguero told reporters after the match, “Some of us are evaluating not playing for the national team anymore.
“Some (players) in the locker room are looking really bad; I don’t think they’ll continue with the national team. If you think about it, creating opportunities for other players is a good thing for the national team.”
Aguero added, referencing Messi’s missed penalty kick in the shootout: “Lamentably, the most f—ed up is Leo, because of the penalty. It’s the worst I’ve seen him in the dressing room.
“We are hurting because of Messi — there’s no explanation to what happened to him. He tried it all to get the championship for us. For us, he’s still the best player of the world.
“I really don’t know how to explain [the loss]. We tried and did everything we could do and out of the past two finals this has been the toughest one to swallow. I truly don’t know what the other players are thinking, but I’ve never seen anything like what I saw today.
Messi, who made his senior international debut in 2005, is his country’s all-time top scorer, with 55 goals from 113 appearances. He rocked his teammates with the news, with goalkeeper Sergio Romero saying the No. 10 might have made a hasty decision.
“I think that Leo spoke in the heat of the moment because a good opportunity passed us by,” Romero said. “I can’t imagine the national team without Messi.”
The news comes off the back of Messi’s criticising the Argentine football federation (AFA) ahead of the final and revealing in a news conference on Friday that he had a backlog of complaints with the AFA.
Argentina manager Gerardo Martino, who had not heard about Messi’s retirement when he spoke to the press after the match, urged his entire squad to continue playing for the Albiceleste despite their frustrations with the AFA.
“My impression is that they don’t have any reason not to continue,” Martino said. “We’re in the middle of a very difficult World Cup qualification, which will continue in September. Besides, they’ve done well. They don’t have too much to scold themselves over.
“Regarding the political situation, there’s not much to say. It’s the same situation that’s been going on for the last six months. The result doesn’t change our view of these past six months or the problems that may have arisen.”
“There is a political matter here that has to do with those in charge of the destiny of Argentine football at the moment and those who aspire to do so,” Martino continued. “None of this has had any impact on us or can be used as an excuse, because we reached the final, and we should’ve won it.
“[Messi] is the way any footballer must be when he gets to the final and then loses. Certainly, to lose again is too painful to assume a posture that’s any different than that, either on the field or in the dressing room.”
ESPN FC’s Tom Marshall contributed to this report