With Copa America postponed a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a possibility that Lionel Messi has already played his final tournament with Argentina.
Messi’s Argentina side bowed out as third-placed finishers at Copa America 2019 after losing to Brazil 2-0 in the semi-final, with the striker denied yet another chance of international silverware.
But could the forward still play for Argentina at Copa America 2021?
There already was uncertainty about Messi playing at Copa America 2020, so if he were to participate in the postponed 2021 edition, he would do so at 34 years of age. There is still a slight chance that he will play in the next edition of the tournament.
Messi has not yet officially retired from Argentina duty, though he may find that within the next year or so will be the appropriate time to hang up his Albiceleste boots.
“I don’t know if it will be the last [tournament Messi plays with Argentina]. Hopefully not,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said in 2019 about the likelihood of Messi leading the Argentina side for Copa America 2020.
“But Argentina need the title, more than just him. Hopefully, don’t promise anything, but we’ll give the maximum to reach the final.”
Messi might still be tempted for one last push at a major international trophy with Argentina. He has never won a major honour with his senior national team, but came close on several occasions – such as the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America when his side fell in the final.
The Barcelona superstar’s reputation with the continental tournament, however, has been tarnished after his controversial claims that the 2019 Copa America was rigged in favour of hosts Brazil.
He was sent off for just the second time in his career after an altercation with Chile midfielder Gary Medel in the third-placed match, who was also shown red.
“There is no doubt, the whole thing is set up for Brazil,” Messi said following the VAR decisions that were in favour of Brazil during the semi-final loss.
“I hope the VAR and referees don’t play any part in the final and that Peru can compete but it looks tough to me.
“I did not want to be part of this corruption, we shouldn’t have to be part of this disrespect we suffered during the Copa America.
“We could have gone further but we weren’t allowed into the final. Corruption, referees and all the rest stopped people from enjoying the football.”
Brazil were crowned Copa America champions when they defeated Peru 3-1 in the final.
Messi was then fined $1500 by CONMEBOL and handed a one-match international ban.
CONMEBOL stated: “In football sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and accepting the outcome of a match with loyalty and respect is a fundamental pillar of fair play. Same goes to the refereeing decisions, that are human and will never be perfect.”
Messi has retired from international football once before, albeit briefly, after Argentina lost to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final on penalties.
The striker had missed his penalty in the shootout and announced his retirement from international duty after the match, though he later reversed his decision.