Lionel Messi: Argentina forward retires from international football

Lionel Messi has retired from international duty after missing in a penalty shootout as Argentina lost a fourth major final in nine years.

"For me, the national team is over," he said after defeat by Chile in the Copa America final. "I've done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion."

Messi, 29, has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with Spanish side Barcelona.

But his only major international honour is Olympic gold at the 2008 Games.

As well as losing two Copa America finals on penalties to Chile, Messi was in the Argentina side beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.

The forward, who was been awarded the Ballon d'Or five times, was also on the losing side against Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final.

"It's been four finals, I tried," added Messi, who made his debut for Argentina in 2005 and has played 113 times for his country.

"It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over.

Lionel Messi scores stunning goal in stoppage time

"I think this is best for everyone. First of all for me, then for everyone.

"I think there's a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it.

"It's very hard, but the decision is taken. Now I will not try more and there will be no going back."

Messi had scored five times at this year's Copa America, including a superb free-kick in the semi-final win over hosts the USA.

That goal made him his country's record scorer with 55 goals, eclipsing the 54-goal mark of striker Gabriel Batistuta.


Argentina and Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero said he hoped Messi would "reflect" on his decision and reconsider.

"I think he spoke while he was heated, because a beautiful opportunity escaped us," said Romero. "I can't imagine a national team without Messi."

Sergio Aguero described the mood in the Argentina dressing room as "the worst I've ever been in" and suggested others may follow Messi's lead.

"There are several players who are evaluating not continuing with the national team," the Manchester City striker told South American media.

He added: "It is the worst defeat ever, worse than the two other finals. So the thinking is it might be time to make room for other players."

Argentine newspaper La Nacionexternal-link thinks Aguero, Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuain are also set to retire, while ESPN Deportesexternal-link reported Angel di Maria, Lucas Biglia, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Ever Banega could follow suit.

After leaving Argentina for Barcelona when he was 13, it has been suggested there is "less room for forgiveness" for Messi in his native country.external-link

But following defeat by Chile, there was more criticism of Napoli striker Higuain, who missed the game's best chance when firing wide in a one-on-one with Chile keeper Claudio Bravo after 20 minutes.

Higuain missed a key chance in the World Cup final against Germany in Brazil, too, and also missed a penalty in the shootout when Chile beat Argentina in last year's Copa final.

Cartoon showing a firing squad about to shoot. A speech bubble reads: "Any last requests?" and the reply is: "For Higuain to shoot."
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain was singled out for criticism, having missed the game's best chance. In this cartoon, a man facing a firing squad is asked: "Any last requests?" to which he replies: "For Higuain to shoot."

Argentina are already six games into their qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup. They are third in the table, two points behind leaders Uruguay.

The top four teams progress to the finals in Russia, while the team finishing fifth qualifies for a two-legged play-off against the best team from Oceania.


South American football expert Tim Vickery:

Before Sunday's match, Argentina football legend Diego Maradona said that the team should not bother coming home if they lose. Year in, year out, Messi has been more consistent at the highest level than Maradona was.

But Maradona has that title. He was the leader of the pack when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986. His form in the quarters and the semi-finals, against England and Belgium, was out of this world...

Read more

Shootout woe

Sunday's Copa America final finished 0-0 after 120 minutes, with Chile eventually winning 4-2 on penalties.

Messi missed Argentina's first attempt from the spot, ballooning his shot over the bar after Romero had denied Chile's Arturo Vidal.

Lucas Biglia also missed from 12 yards, with Chilean substitute Francisco Silva scoring the decisive penalty in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The Copa America usually takes place every four years, but this was an extra tournament to celebrate the competition's centenary.

Ole newspaper front page
'Don't go', reads the headline on Argentinean sports daily Ole
Messi's penalty was hit high over the bar after Bayern Munich midfielder Vidal had missed for Chile
It was the fourth time Messi had been on the losing side of a final with Argentina
Gary Lineker twitter
Messi after the match
"On top of everything, I missed the penalty kick," said Messi, after the match
Lucas Biglia also missed his penalty as Argentina lost a second Copa America final in a row to Chile
One of the most decorated players in the game, Messi's only international honour is gold at the 2008 Olympics
One of the most decorated players in the game, Messi's only international honour is gold at the 2008 Olympics
Lionel Messi
Messi has played 113 times for Argentina

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