EAST RUTHERFORD —Lionel Messi sensationally announced his retirement from international football here Sunday after Argentina crashed to an upset defeat against Chile in the final of 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.
“For me the national team is over,” the crestfallen 29-year-old told reporters.
“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’s dramatic announcement followed Argentina’s third loss in a major final since 2014.
They were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the final of the World Cup in 2014 and lost on penalties, also to Chile, in the final of the 2015 Copa America.
Messi also tasted defeat with Argentina in the final of the 2007 Copa America.
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.
“I know what it means to value certain numbers and Messi’s numbers are unmatched, and I don’t think they will ever be matched because it’s impossible for a player to find the things that Messi finds.”
But while universally regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever, he has regularly been targeted for his inability to land a major title in the colors of Argentina.
Messi’s failure to match the achievements of Diego Maradona, who single-handedly carried the team to victory in the 1986 World Cup, has often been held against him.