Lionel Messi is the best player in the world – we can argue that till kingdom come, but that is not the subject of this piece. With the 2-0 defeat suffered to Brazil in the semi-final of the Copa America 2019 on Wednesday morning, it looks like Messi’s chance to win a trophy in a senior Albiceleste shirt might be over.
When he made his debut for Argentina in August 2005, there were many who asked how many World Cups he would lead Argentina to, but, after 135 caps and 68 goals, the journey has yet to actually kick off because the little magician has not won one senior trophy with his country.
His best exploits for his country have been at under-age levels – winning the U-20 World Cup in 2005 and the Olympic Gold medal in 2008.
Now 32, Messi can be said to be at the peak of his powers but those powers seem better deployed in Catalonia than in Buenos Aires.
At club level with Barcelona, Messi is overloaded with triumphs and accolades; 10-time La Liga champion; six-time Copa del Rey winner; four-time UEFA Champions League winner added to being a five-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner and three-time UEFA Best Player in Europe, the mesmeric left-footer has won it all, apart from with Argentina.
True, this Messi-led Argentina team improved as the tournament wore on and many believe they coped quite well with the hosts but they still lost – one that Messi blamed on the officials, who seemingly got tired of reverting to VAR to help them out.
“They [Brazil] were not better than us. They found the net early and the second goal came from a penalty [to Aguero] they didn’t award.
“[The officials] were tired of making bullshit calls at this Copa and they didn’t go to VAR. It was unbelievable. There is no excuse, it must be looked into. Hopefully, CONMEBOL does something about these kinds of referees.
“Because we did everything to try and advance but [the officials] stacked the deck against us,” he added.
As the sun begins to set on a national career that promised so much at the beginning, Messi knows he is running out of time and tournaments to seal his legacy in his home country. Another reprieve could be around the corner as his country co-hosts the 2020 Copa America tournament with Colombia and maybe a last ditch effort at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Messi believes it is not over.
“Something new is on the horizon.
“I hope we are respected and not criticised. They should let the team be and let them grow.
“The truth is I have got on very well with this group of players and if I have to help in some way I will. This is a great group which is growing and if I can join them, I will.”
Many will be hoping that he does not end his Argentina career as a failure.
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