EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Lionel Messi says he’s quitting Argentina’s national team.
Argentina and Messi lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.
His nation’s captain and career scoring leader with 55 goals in 113 international appearances, Messi sent Argentina’s first penalty kick over the crossbar.
“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.”
Messi and Argentina lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final. They lost last year’s Copa final to host Chile on penalty kicks after a 0-0 draw.
Messi moved to Barcelona in 2001 when he was 13, and many fans at home have criticized him for not leading the nation to a World Cup title, as Diego Maradona did in 1986.
“On top of everything, I missed the penalty kick,” Messi told TyC. “I think this is best for everyone. First of all for me, and then for everyone. I think there’s a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it.”
Of course, Messi was speaking in the aftermath of the emotional defeat and could change his mind. Argentina’s next competitive match is a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in September, and the top-ranked Albiceleste are considered among the early favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Messi, who turned 29 on Friday, won under-20 and Olympic (under-23) titles with Argentina. He has led Barcelona to four Champions League and eight Spanish league titles, scoring 453 competitive goals in 531 games, including a La Liga-record 312
“That’s it, I’ve already tried enough,” he told TyC. “It pains me more than anyone not being able to be a champion with Argentina, but that’s the way it is. It wasn’t meant to be, and unfortunately I leave without having achieved it.”