Sergio Agüero: "They treat Messi like a criminal. He's the one who takes the losses the hardest. Many may follow him in retiring."
Lionel Messi has finally and maybe for the first time in his career, admitted defeat. He retires as the highest-scorer for Argentina with 55 goals in 113 appearances but has managed to lose four finals, with the latest Copa America defeat to Chile completing an embarrassing hat trick of lost finals.
Lionel Messi breaks down after Argentina's Copa America loss
The lasting image of the tournament will remain Messi breaking down on the pitch as Chile defended their title successfully after a penalty shoot-out.
The decision to quit international football seems to be an emotional one.
Now, the 2008 Olympic gold medal will remain the highlight of Messi’s Argentina career. A massive underachievement considering he has won everything under the sun when it comes to individual honours and club football.
His last game in Argentina stripes was a rather forgetful one. A missed penalty and an embarrassing yellow card for diving- it was all just too much for Leo in the end.
The unexpected announcement however has split opinion on Messi once again- is he taking ownership of the defeat or is he being too emotional and quitting the national team before winning the world cup?
The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
It was largely due to Messi that Argentina reached the World Cup final in 2014, but being second best isn’t easy for a player whose trophy cabinet is laden with honours.
Messi is the only football player in history to win five FIFA Ballons d'Or, four of which he won consecutively, and the first player to win three European Golden Shoes. With Barcelona he has won eight La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles, as well as four Copa del Rey.
His frustration at being unable to cross the finishing line with the national team therefore has been rather difficult to explain. Messi has been made the scapegoat for failings of the team. Diego Maradona questioned his leadership saying he didn’t have the personality for it.
They treat Messi like a criminal. He's the one who takes the losses the hardest. Many may follow him in retiring.
The right way of responding to his critics-the ‘Messi way’- would have been to win the Copa America and then the world cup. But football rarely follows a script.
The hope for all Messi fans however remains that this was an emotional outburst and he would reconsider before the 2018 world cup. To see Messi return for a last hurrah would be great but it would remain a gamble. Another loss in a big final would irreparably taint the little master’s legacy.