A fourth loss in a major international tournament final was too much to bear for Lionel Messi.
Following Argentina's 4-2 defeat on penalty kicks to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final on Sunday night, the Barcelona star announced he is retiring from international football:
Bleacher Report UK @br_uk
A sad day for international football. https://t.co/yp58oGr4Co2016-6-27 04:45:54
Messi was one of two Argentine players to miss his penalty kick, and he was visibly distraught on the pitch after the match, per Vice Sports' Mike Tunison:
Mike Tunison @xmasape
ok I don't know if you need MJ for this one https://t.co/5pbcm47Oho2016-6-27 03:05:48
Given the emotional toll the loss took on him, Messi may have been speaking prematurely before thinking his decision through. ESPN FC's James Tyler wondered as much:
James Tyler @JamesTylerESPN
I mean, people say things when they lose. We've all done it. When dust settles, will tonight's words ring true?2016-6-27 04:47:58
"I've seen Leo like this before," teammate Sergio Aguero said, per Argentine football journalist Sam Kelly. "He's the best in the world, and he'll keep being it. ... He's not said anything to me."
Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl wondered whether Messi's announcement was directed toward the Argentine Football Federation (AFA):
Grant Wahl @GrantWahl
Hard to know if Messi is being serious about retirement or just emotional right now. Argentine federation is a disaster at the moment.2016-6-27 04:43:20
The situation at the AFA has gotten so bad that FIFA announced Friday it has temporarily taken control of the association in hopes of cleaning things up and electing a new governing body by June 2017. Kelly outlined the problems facing the AFA:
Sam Kelly @HEGS_com
AFA: - No president - No idea how next season's Primera will be - Hawk nat'l team around for $ - Might be about to be deaffiliated from FIFA2016-6-27 05:05:59
If Sunday was Messi's last stand with Argentina, it would be one of the most shocking international retirements in football history. Philipp Lahm left the German national team at a relatively young age (30), but that was immediately after Germany had won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, rather than following a heartbreaking defeat.
Not only is Messi still one of the best players in the world, but he also hasn't tasted the same kind of team success with Argentina that he has with Barcelona. Unless that happens, his legacy will always have a small void.
He may have a change of heart by the time Argentina's World Cup qualifying campaign resumes in September. The 2018 World Cup will likely be Messi's last opportunity to compete at the event, and passing up on that chance won't be easy for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.