Nine times Argentine footballer of the year, Olympic gold medallist, Copa America Runner-up and FIFA World Cup finalist. Regarded as the best player in the world and rated by many in the sport as the greatest of all time. Born in Rosario, Santa Fe in Argentina, Lionel Andres Messi made his first international debut for his country in 2005 against Hungary.

The youngest Argentine to play and score in a FIFA World Cup in 2006

Famously recognized in the blue and maroon colours for Barcelona, Messi has won it all at the club level from winning the La Liga and UEFA Champions League to becoming the top scorer for the Catalans. The five time Ballon d ‘Or winner though has failed to achieve that feat with his country on the international stage by losing out on four finals in 2007,2014, 2015 and 2016, three Copa America’s and one FIFA World Cup. Messi’s retirement from the national team was the least expected outcome of Copa America 2016. He announcing his retirement from international football was a shocking and painful news to hear. He is playing top class football and he could have easily served Argentina with solid performances for the next 4 to 5 years but he chose otherwise.   It is important to understand the reason why he thought it is the best time to retire.


Messi was looked after by Barcelona as their own, Barca played a great role in making Messi a great superstar performer. What Messi got from Barcelona must be appreciated by all the Argentinians. They should not forget that when Messi needed his hormone treatment in his youth no one came forward except Barcelona. He being a world star with his club only raised expectations of his fans, mostly back home that he alone should deliver trophies to Argentina. Very few hailed his performances and complimented the team for reaching those finals. Most of the time he was criticized, people doubted his commitment, questioned his love for the country, and ridiculed his leadership.

It is very clear that Messi hates to lose and his success rate so far demonstrates that he plays to win whether for his club or for the national team. But he was put under tremendous pressure by his own to win the trophies all alone. Which hardly helped the cause of Argentina to win trophies. Very few understood that it is a team sport and football has moved forward leaps and bounds since 1980s and players like Messi require great support and encouragement to perform to their best which is not possible if the team is not focused. This announcement after the Copa loss is the result of the pressure and stress he was carrying since long and when he missed from the spot then this pressure only multiplied a thousand folds. Which is a difficult situation for any sportsman to be in, being in pressure means performance and health both get affected badly. The way the whole team played and particularly Messi in Copa 100, the team looked strong favourites to lift the trophy after the wait of 23 years. But it is not always the form or the best player in the world can always decide the outcome of a final match when certain decisions go against the team. The turning point for the match was when Argentina went down to 10 man due to horrendous decision of the referee. That decision lifted the whole Chile team and they started dominating the midfield.

Messi retiring from International football at the age of 29 is not only a big loss to Argentina but also to the world

When the best player announces his retirement from the game so early then it only points out to that legends like him are not getting the required support, encouragement and protection. His decision only indicates that he won’t enjoy playing for national team if a situation persists where he has to take all abuses and criticism even after giving his best. Messi’s announcement also resulted in similar decisions by his fellow teammates and the rumour is that many of his generation might call it a day, which would further be a bad news for Argentina football. Messi’s cause was also not helped by the 1986 World Cup winner, who instead of encouraging the World Player of the Year rather put additional pressure by his statements about Messi. Messi is a different individual, who is not flamboyant but believes in talking through his on field performances and has always stayed out of controversy and stayed down to earth, even after achieving a legendary status. Therefore, he deserved a better treatment and respect all round.


There is a possibility he might reconsider his decision and come out of retirement in the next 12 to 16 months but it all depends upon if he is not encountering or experiencing a similar situation where he is unjustifiably crucified. Few big stars have come out of retirement before like Zidane and we should not be surprised if he does the same. After all he is a fine human being and he will be ready to fight for his motherland if he is fairly treated. No one should question his patriotism, while he was in the Barcelona academy, Spain made an attempt to include Messi in its U17 national team but he plainly refused stating that he will play only for his country.  Watching Argentina playing without Messi will be tough to watch, no one can replace such a magician. He will be missed, missed, missed, and missed at the international stage. Though he will continue to entertain us in the Barcelona colours.

By Shaji Prabhakaran

Football Consultant| Sports Expert| President Football Delhi (FA)| Author| Ex-FIFA/AIFF| Consultant AFC, FIFA, ICC| CIES| Development| Management|

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