Could this really be the end for Lionel Messi and Argentina?
An emotional Messi announced his intention to end his international career after La Albiceleste's heartbreaking loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final on Sunday, the latest in a string of painful failures in major international tournaments for the player many regard as the greatest of all time.
“That’s it. The national team is over for me. It’s been four finals. It’s not for me," Messi told media at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. "Unfortunately I tried for it and it’s what I wanted the most. It didn’t happen but I think that’s it."
AHORA: Messi: "Se terminó para mí la Selección" https://t.co/Nws9kiScoV— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) June 27, 2016
Messi, who just turned 29, has taken Spanish side FC Barcelona to unprecedented heights in European club soccer, but has fallen just short of similar glory in his country's colors. He's guided Argentina to the final of the 2014 World Cup, where they fell to Germany, and second-place finishes in three of the past four Copa America tournaments, including this summer's Centenario edition.
"It's done. I already tried a lot. I tried a lot," Messi said. "The mark will remain with me that I have never been able to be a champion with Argentina but it is what it is. It didn't happen. And regrettably, I'm going without being able to do it."
"It’s what I feel now and what I think. It’s a great sadness that it happened again,” he added. “It's difficult. It is a tough moment for any analysis. In the locker I thought about it and the national team is not for me.”
After missing Argentina's first attempt in the penalty shootout and watching Chile triumph, the 29-year-old was despondent as yet another opportunity to lift a trophy -- perhaps his final for Argentina -- came and went.
"I think it's for the best of everyone. First for me and then for everyone," he said. "I think there have been a lot of people who wanted this and obviously are not happy and we're also not happy with arriving at a final and not winning it. But as I just said to you it was our turn to lose again on penalties. It was an even game, but I think the decision has been made."
Other reports suggested that some of Messi's prominent teammates may follow his path, with his friend Javier Mascherano ready to call time on his own Argentina career as well.
Mascherano tampoco continuará en la Selección Argentina. pic.twitter.com/IBVcypxfiP— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) June 27, 2016