Argentine captain and Barcelona striker Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international soccer after his country’s Copa America final penalty-shootout defeat to Chile at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, late Sunday.
Messi told Argentine network TyC Sports he’s quitting the national soccer team after losing to Chile for the second consecutive final. However, he will continue to play club soccer for Spanish giant Barcelona.
The match, which went to penalties after the exhaustion of extra time, could have ended Argentina’s 23-year wait for a major title. The five-time world player of the year does not have any titles with the national team to his name.
Argentina lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final. Messi also was part of the 2007 Argentina side that lost to Brazil in the final.
The 29-year-old was the first to take the penalty kick but sent the ball over the crossbar, as Francisco Silva converted Chile’s shootout final.
“The national team is over for me. That’s four finals [lost], it’s not for me,” Messi said after the match. “It’s a made decision, I think.”
“I feel a great sadness right now that this is happening again,” he added. “I missed my penalty, which was super important. That's it.”
Messi has also been locked in a dispute with officials at the Argentine Football Association (AFA). Before the Copa America Centenario final, he took to social media to show his disapproval toward the management’s handling of the team’s travel after their flight was delayed.
“Once again waiting on a plane to leave for our destination,” Messi wrote on Instagram. “What a disaster the AFA are. My god!”
Fans took to social media to express their disappointment with the announcement.
The news comes just two years before the next World Cup in Russia. No official confirmation has been put out yet.