Argentina captain Lionel Messi is reportedly set to take a break from international football after La Albiceleste's disappointing showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The Barcelona star will not feature for Argentina for the rest of the calendar year. He will then make a decision on whether he will return next year, according to TNT Sports, via Mundo Deportivo (h/t Alex Smith of the Mirror).
There was huge pressure on Messi at the World Cup. The forward is widely regarded as one of the best players to grace the game, and the tournament in Russia was considered his last chance to win it.
Argentina have a talented squad but have struggled to create a cohesive team. The team found it tough going during World Cup qualifying and needed a hat-trick from Messi in their final game against Ecuador to secure their place.
It was a similar story in Russia where manager Jorge Sampaoli's side made hard work of their group games. Argentina only confirmed their place in the knockout stages with a 2-1 win over Nigeria in their final match.
Messi appeared to be feeling the pressure, according to BBC Sport:
Argentina did not last much longer in the tournament. They were beaten 4-3 by eventual winners France in the last 16.
Messi managed one goal and two assists at the World Cup, which led to criticism over his performances.
Former France international Emmanuel Petit said he was "not a leader" and "can disappear" on the pitch, per Paddy Power News (h/t Football Espana).
Argentina legend and World Cup winner Diego Maradona defended the Barcelona star after the tournament. He told Telesur (h/t Marca's Juan Castro) that Argentina "wanted Messi to solve everything."
Oliver Kay at the Times offered his view of Messi and Argentina:
Oliver Kay @OliverKayTimes
I know some like to diss Messi because he hasn't played in Premier Lge*. But of #ARG past 3 World Cups, he was (officially) player of tournament at one & they were an incoherent top-heavy mess at other two. Even Diego would have struggled with pressure of having to carry this lot
Sampaoli stepped down from his post after the World Cup. Argentina are yet to announce a permanent replacement for the 58-year-old.
Sports writer Andy West explained Messi's decision:
Messi is still only 31, which means it is entirely possible he could feature at the 2022 World Cup. Whether he will choose to continue may depend on who replaces Sampaoli, and whether Messi feels the new manager can take the team in the right direction.