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Messi Retires from International Football - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Lionel Messi sensationally announced his retirement from international football on Sunday after Argentina lost a final for the third year in a row, with Chile winning the Copa America.

The heartbroken Barcelona superstar was distraught after missing a spot-kick as Chile snatched victory in a penalty shoot-out –Messi’s fourth straight defeat in a major final while representing Argentina.

Chile won 4-2 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 tie Sunday night.

“For me the national team is over,” the crestfallen 29-year-old told reporters in East Rutherford in the United States.

“I’ve done all I can, I’ve been in four finals and it hurts not to be a champion.

“It’s a hard moment for me and the team, and it’s difficult to say, but it’s over with the Argentina team.”

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 1990.

Despite a glittering career that has seen him be named FIFA World Player of the Year on no fewer than five occasions, Messi has faced persistent sniping from critics in Argentina.

Yet he received support on Sunday from Chile’s victorious Argentine coach Juan Antonio Pizzi, who maintained that Messi deserves to be regarded as the best ever.

“As well as an admiration for Messi, I’m driven very much by his numbers,” Pizzi said of Messi’s record-breaking career.

Pizzi said comparisons with Maradona were unfair.

“My generation can’t compare him with Maradona, because of what Maradona did for Argentine soccer,” Pizzi said. “But it seems that the best player in history played in the United States. For me the numbers are impossible to argue with.”

Maradona himself has often taken potshots at Messi, criticizing him on the eve of the tournament for a perceived “lack of personality.”

“He’s a really good person, but he has no personality,” Maradona said in Paris shortly before the start of Euro 2016.

“He lacks the character to be a leader,” he added.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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