Three summers in a row, Lionel Messi has brought Argentina to the edge of glory. And each time, the nation that currently sits atop FIFA’s rankings, has failed.
At the 2014 World Cup final, it was a 1-0 loss to Germany, with the only goal coming in extra time. At the 2015 Copa America final it was a loss to Chile on penalties after 120 scoreless minutes. And Sunday night, at the 2016 Copa America final, it was the same thing all over again. Two hours without a goal and then Chile won on penalties.
For the greatest soccer player in the world, it was too much to bear.
"For me, the national team is over," Messi said after the crushing loss to Chile. "I've done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion."
Messi, of course, is a champion in so many other aspects of the game. With Barcelona he’s won eight La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies. Personally, he’s taken home the Ballon d'Or five times. At the 2014 World Cup, despite Argentina’s loss to Germany, he won the Golden Ball for being the best player in the tournament.
But Messi wasn’t thinking about any of that when he said his national team retirement is “for the good of everybody.” He was thinking about the penalty kick he blasted over the goal in last night’s climatic shootout.
“It's a great sadness that it happened to me again, the fact that I missed a penalty kick that was very important,” he said.
Despite his announcement, there’s reason to believe Messi will suit up again for La Albiceleste. He’ll only be 30 for the 2018 World Cup and, in all likelihood still the best player in the world. The pain from last night will fade. It always does.
And the opportunity once again to lift Argentina’s curse will be just too tempting for him to stay home.