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Could Another Copa America Loss Lead to International Retirement for Messi?

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With Argentina finally squeezing into the quarterfinals after beating Copa America guests Qatar, fans of the Albiceleste are surely glad to see that their team still has a fighting chance. Indeed, there’s sure to be an extra sense of relief considering the fact that Argentina came achingly close to winning the 2016 Copa America, ultimately falling in a penalty shootout.

Yet despite having arguably the best footballer in the world in Lionel Messi, Argentina is far from a guarantee to win the Copa America. In fact, Messi himself even missed a penalty during the aforementioned shootout, helping to gift Chile the Copa America title. And this, ultimately, plays into why the stakes seem so high this time around. There’s a feeling that if Argentina falls short again, the 32-year-old superstar may finally withdraw from national team activity.

Below are a few more reasons why this possibility is on football fans’ minds.

He’s Done It Before

The shame and frustration of that missed penalty proved proved too much for Messi back in 2016. “For me, the national team is over,” the forward declared shortly after that tournament’s conclusion. “I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion.” He even added “it’s been four finals, I tried,” a reference to earlier heartbreaks which include the 2014 World Cup against Germany and another Copa America loss in 2007 (too bitter continental rival Brazil).

Though Messi did return just a few months later (just in time for qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup), another failure to grasp an international title could prove too much, particularly if Argentina comes so close yet again. This time around, Messi may leave for good.

It’s Getting Harder To Keep Up With The Competition

South America has a history of producing some of the greatest talents in football and it certainly shows at this year’s Copa America. In fact, a look at the Copa America odds available on a number of international betting sites should be enough to give you an idea of just how cutthroat the competition really is. Naturally, specific betting odds vary from one site to the next, but overall the relative tightness between Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia – with Chile not too far behind – paints a very competitive picture indeed.

Meanwhile, Messi is already 32, inching closer and closer to the age at which most professional foot players decline. In what is perhaps a result of his status as a player who’s now slightly past his prime, Messi also managed to score just one goal in the group stage (a penalty against Paraguay). With his performance failing to live up to expectations and competition looking as good or better than ever, it may just be that Messi will retire without a title, leaving young teammates like Paulo Dybala and Lautaro Martinez to take up this mantle.

A Fundamentally Flawed National Team

A final factor that could lead to Messi’s international retirement is that his national team is riddled with problems. As outlined by The Guardian, Argentina has had to suffer under a string of incompatible managers; Jorge Scaloni, the current manager, had never even taken charge of a competitive fixture prior to his appointment. Furthermore, Messi’s mere presence on the pitch has led to a psychological urge by his teammates to defer to him, perhaps too much, rendering the team’s tactics utterly predictable. Messi might leave because the team system simply hasn’t worked during his tenure.

Whatever the key reason may be for Argentina’s issues in major international events, we might well be approaching a point at which Messi will decide – permanently this time – that he doesn’t want to be a part of it. One more failure in Brazil could be all it takes.

Of course, if Argentina were to triumph at the Copa, we might just have to start talking about Messi’s international career in entirely different terms!

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