Lionel Messi: Diego Maradona urges forward to change mind about retiring

Messi looks distraught
Messi missed with Argentina's first penalty of the shootout against Chile in a repeat of last year's Copa final

Lionel Messi has been urged to reconsider his international retirement by Argentina legend Diego Maradona and the country's president.

The forward, 29, quit after missing in a penalty shootout as Argentina were beaten by Chile in the Copa America - a fourth major final loss in nine years.

"Those saying he should quit don't want us to see what a disaster Argentinean football has become," Maradona told La Nacion newspaper.

"Messi must go on."

Maradona, who captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup and managed the team at the 2010 World Cup, added: "Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion.

"The lads have to be supported more to help him take the team forward."

Messi said after Sunday's defeat that for him, the national team was "over" and that "it hurts not to be a champion".

Argentine President Mauricio Macri said he called Messi to tell him "how proud he feels of the national team's performance and asked him not to listen to the criticism".

He added he hopes to meet the player next week and convince him to return to the national team.

"The truth is that it's good fortune, a joy, a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a country like ours that is so football-crazy," added Macri.

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

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

Defeat on Sunday was the second time in two years Argentina have lost the Copa America final to Chile on penalties, while they were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.

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

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.


Compiled by BBC Monitoring

Lionel Messi's announcement that he is retiring from international football is dominating Argentine press and social media, and there is a national push to persuade the forward to stay.

Argentina fans
Messi's decision to retire from internationals has dominated news coverage in Argentina

The news has prompted a campaign across social media, urging the football star not to quit. Argentine President Mauricio Macri was one of millions to tweet using the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio [Don't Go Lio], one of many hashtags to have emerged following Messi's announcement.

Newspaper La Nacion says that the country's focus is firmly on convincing Messi to stay, rather than any disappointment caused by the team's defeat, in an article titled 'Clamour for Messi eclipses frustration'.

The paper also notes the overwhelming support for Messi on social media, in contrast to the "indifference" of the Argentine Football Association.

Argentina fans
Many Argentina fans had messages for Messi as they welcomed the team back from the Copa America. The sign on the left reads: "Don't leave me Messi, I love you more than my mum." The sign on the right reads: "I know we don't deserve you, but please don't go Lio."

Clarin newspaper is also running several features on the story. Their front page includes the results of a poll on whether Messi should stay (76% say yes), an editorial by editor Ricardo Roa entitled 'Come back and forgive us, Leo', and speculation as to whether other national stars will follow suit and quit.

Osvaldo Pepe, writing for Clarin online, defends Messi's decision and says it "is not an act of cowardice, nor a dribble of confidence [...] but the dignified act of a person who is emotionally broken". Pepe adds that it does not matter if Messi retires now, for Argentina "will always be waiting" for his return.

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