Lionel Messi had strong words after Argentina’s loss in PKs to Chile at the Copa America Centenario, claiming retirement.
And while there’s reason to think he’ll go back on his emotional but rather definitive statements, Argentina anxiously awaits what’s next.
The nation’s federation is in shambles, under FIFA administration ahead of a presidential election and with reports that major stars like Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano could join Messi on the sidelines.
Diego Maradona has been critical of Lionel Messi in the past, as has much of Argentina soccer since the world’s best player left home to join Barcelona at 13, but he has no interest in seeing him retire.
“Those saying he should quit don’t want us to see what a disaster Argentinean football has become,” Maradona told La Nacion newspaper.
“Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion.
“The lads have to be supported more to help him take the team forward.”
Maradona was very critical of the direction of the national team program, saying he’s worried the next president will be chosen like “a used car dealership”. He’s very right that Argentina will still be a prime contender in Russia.
We still await further word from Messi, who will turn 31 during the next World Cup. The oldest members of the current team — Mascherano and Ezequiel Lavezzi — will be 34 and 33, with players like Angel Correa or Paulo Dybala waiting in the wings.