THE question of whether Lionel Messi can be considered a football great is set to continue after he failed to guide Argentina to this year’s Copa America Centenario.
In a repeat of last year’s Copa final, Chile beat Argentina on penalties 4-2. Meaning Argentina have not won a major senior level trophy for 23 years.
For the first time, the tournament was played outside of South America. Hosted in the United States, 10 teams from Conmebol (the South American football confederation) and six from Concacaf (the football confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean) took part.
Argentina were favourites to win this time and wasted several opportunities in an ill-tempered match that then went to penalties. Messi blasted Argentina’s first penalty over the bar, and the rest, they say, is history.
Argentina fans, especially, don’t seem to think very highly of the Barcelona player when he is in the blue and white jersey.
The comparisons with Diego Maradona, who won the 1986 World Cup for the South Americans will be there. Four finals for Messi – three Copa and one World Cup – and Argentina have finished runners-up in all.
Just after the final, Messi said he was retiring from international football.
“In the dressing room I thought that this is the end for me with the national team, it's not for me. I tried so hard to be champion with Argentina. Now I am leaving without having managed it,” Messi reportedly said.
At the age of 29, Messi can still play at least the 2018 World Cup. He would be 35 during the 2022 edition.
There will a Copa America tournament in between as well, so his retirement is shocking and sad, to say the least.
But why hasn’t it happened for Messi at international level? It’s not to say he is a bad player for Argentina. Far from it.
He has scored a record 55 goals in 113 appearances, surpassing Gabriel Batistuta’s 54 goals.
I honestly find the comparison between Messi and Maradona irritating. Yes, Maradona is no doubt one of the best footballers of all time but they played in different eras.
And can Maradona be defined by only winning the 1986 World Cup or the two seasons he helped Napoli win the scudetto in Italy?
Then what about Messi’s numerous titles with Barcelona? Not winning a major title with Argentina doesn’t mean that Messi isn’t a great. In any case Messi has won an Olympics gold medal with Argentina.
Hopefully, he will reconsider his decision to retire and we will be able to see Messi in Argentinian colours again.
As for Chile, they were deserved winners yet again. They showed resolve when they had to and dug deep to win the battle of nerves.
They have also showed that they can play beautiful football, such as in the 7-0 trashing of Mexico in a knockout game. Their 2-0 win against Colombia in the semi-final was also impressive.
With the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, they should be aiming to win the World Cup.
Till the next Copa then. Ola!