Lionel Messi has retired from international football after Argentina crashed to a defeat against Chile in the final of the Copa America.
The heartbroken Barcelona superstar was distraught after missing a spot-kick as Chile snatched victory in a penalty shoot-out – Messi’s fourth straight defeat in a major final while representing Argentina.
“For me the national team is over. I’ve done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion,” said the 29-year-old Messi in the wake of the penalty shoot-out defeat in New Jersey. “It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over.”
“It’s tough, it’s not the time for analysis,” he said. “In the dressing room I thought that this is the end for me with the national team, it’s not for me. That’s the way I feel right now, it’s a huge sadness once again and I missed the penalty that was so important.”
Chile beat Argentina in the final for the second straight year, 4-2, in the shootout following a 0-0 tie that ended an expanded 16-nation edition in the United States to mark the championship’s 100th anniversary.
The defeat continued Argentina’s 23-year trophyless run and Messi’s own personal misery now extends to four lost finals with the national side – at the 2014 World Cup against Germany and at three Copa Américas, in 2007, 2015 and now 2016.
Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said: “The burden of the consecutive games [lost] has been accumulating these last two years. He feels like you would expect a player to feel after playing and losing a final.”
Messi, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, winner of four Champions League titles and eight Spanish La Liga crowns with Barcelona, was crushed. Much of his nation had counted on him to bring home its first major title since 1993.
Playing two days after his 29th birthday, Messi lost a final for the third year in a row and the fourth time overall with Argentina. There was also the 2007 Copa final with Brazil, when he was still a wunderkind, and then an extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
Immediately after Sunday’s shock announcement, goalkeeper Romero said he hoped Messi would change his mind. “I think Leo spoke in the heat of the moment because we missed that great chance,” said Romero.
Messi now stands to miss the 2018 World Cup, with the odds of Argentina breaking their long-standing major trophy drought in Russia just having lengthened significantly.
Lionel Messi made his international debut against Hungary in August 2005 when he came on as a substitute, but was sent off less than a minute later for elbowing an opponent who pulled his shirt.
Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, was representing his country for the 112th time since making his debut in 2005 as an 18-year-old. In that time he scored 55 times, including five this tournament. He surpassed Gabriel Batistuta’s all-time leading mark of 54 for Argentina with a superb free-kick in last week’s semi-final against the US