The Final of the 2016 Copa America Centenario was –probably- Lionel Messi’s final game as a member of Argentina. But Is it still possible for the 29-year-old superstar to change his mind and continue his effort to lead the national team to the top of the world?
Since his first appearances with Argentina more than a decade ago, Lionel Messi was always compared to the legendary Diego Armando Maradona, with his compatriots always expecting from Messi to do what Maradona used to do, namely dominating his opponents.
Although the 29-year-old forward became one of the best players in the history of football, leading Barcelona to the top, both in Spain and in Europe, he failed to do the same with the national team.
Having played four times in the Final (2007, 2015, 2016 Copa America and 2014 World Cup), Messi didn’t manage to claim the coveted title and that’s why he decided to retire from the national team, showing that he no longer enjoys the game.
And he is right, as the national team never really helped Messi the way Barcelona did, for instance.
More specifically, there was no manager in Argentina’s bench (Maradona, Tata Martino or Alejandro Sabella) that had a specific plan and tactical approach so as to let him do his best in every game.
Apart from Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano, there was no other player that could help Messi make the difference. On the contrary, the Argentinian had 10 top-class team-mates in Barcelona, who were always there for him.
On the other hand, their main rivals and back-to-back Copa America champions, Chile, have created a decent squad, full of great and versatile players, that can be effective, both defensively and offensively.
Players like Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla, Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel have been the team’s leaders, with every player of the squad being ready to do their best in every game, no matter how much playing time they will have.
That happened due to their manager’s plan, with Marcelo Bielsa, Jorge Sampaoli and Juan Antonio Pizzi, respectively, having an effective tactical approach, which was suitable for the players and let them become South America’s top team in the past couple of years. And that has been the biggest difference between the two teams so far.
Concerning Messi, we should take into account that he led the side to four Finals between 2007 and 2016, whereas Argentina hadn’t accomplished anything between the end of Maradona’s career and the beginning of Messi’s one. So, maybe, his decision to retire is the right one for a player that was always compared to Maradona.
Even though Messi hasn’t referred again to his decision since he officially announced it, there already are the first reports that he will reverse it.
But, as this is not expected to happen before October or November of 2016, there will be more speculation about what the 29-year-old player will finally do.
In the end, and judging by the fact that he haven’t won any trophies with the national team, maybe it would be better for him to fight one last time to win the title in the 2018 World Cup.
But, and no matter whether or not he will reverse his decision, one thing is certain. Argentina should change their playing style and tactics in order to remain a title contender and be capable of claiming trophies, even if Lionel Messi is not part of the squad.