Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and the country’s president Mauricio Macri, as well as fans, urged Lionel Messi on Monday not to leave the national team despite his vow to quit after a humiliating defeat.
The Barcelona superstar left the field in tears after missing a spot-kick in the Copa America Centenario final shootout, losing 2-4 to Chile on Sunday.
He promptly told reporters he was quitting, throwing Argentine football into turmoil ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“The national team is over for me,” Messi Told the Argentine network TyC Sports. “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.”
Fans have largely held Messi responsible for not delivering a World Cup title, despite his renowned prowess, believing Messi should have followed in the footsteps of the great Diego Maradona and his success at the 1986 World Cup.
“On top of everything, I missed the penalty kick,” Messi said. “I think there are a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it.”
But teammate Sergio Romero said Messi spoke in the heat of the moment and should reconsider.
“It’s sad because once again a beautiful chance slipped away,” the Argentine goalkeeper said.
Maradona also had some things to say.
“He has to stay because he still has playing days ahead of him,” Maradona was quoted as saying by La Nacion newspaper online.
“He will go to Russia in form to be world champion.”
Messi, 29, is widely rated as the best player in the world, but Sunday’s loss was his fourth defeat in an international final for Argentina.
After an outpouring of disappointment by fans online, Argentina’s President Macri joined the calls for the Barcelona superstar to stay with Argentina.
“He called him and told him how proud he feels of the national team’s performance and asked him not to listen to the criticism,” a spokesman for Macri told AFP by telephone
Messi has experienced some success in Argentina’s colours, after winning the under-20 and Olympic (under-23) titles for his country. He’s also claimed four Champions League titles and eight Spanish League titles with Barcelona.