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Copa America 2024: The Potential Farewell for Lionel Messi with Argentina

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his side's opening goal during the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina and Mexico, at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
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Buenos Aires, Argentina — The upcoming Copa America could mark the final chapter of Lionel Messi’s illustrious career with Argentina’s national soccer team.

As the World Cup winner prepares to turn 37 during the tournament in the United States, which kicks off this Thursday, questions loom over his future on the international stage.

Despite a storied career spanning two decades at the highest levels of European football, Messi’s current performance at Inter Miami indicates he may be past his peak. Although he hasn’t officially set a retirement date, the possibility of his departure from the international scene seems increasingly likely.

In a candid interview with Saudi broadcaster Riyad Season in March, Messi acknowledged the challenges that come with aging. “I don’t think about retirement yet. The moment I feel that I am not going to help my team, I will retire,” he said. “I always ate well, trained. But as I grew older, I became aware that the physical effort we make is getting harder. As you grow old, things become more difficult.”

The eight-time Ballon d’Or winner faced several muscular injuries last year while playing in MLS and for Argentina, a trend that continued into 2024. Nevertheless, Messi’s passion for the game remains evident as he continues to make significant contributions on the field, with 12 goals and 13 assists for Inter Miami this season.

Messi’s life in Miami reflects a balance between his professional commitments and personal enjoyment. He often spends time with his wife, Antonella, and their three children, engages in new business ventures, and enjoys the company of close friends and former Barcelona teammates Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets, and Jordi Alba.

“I have a good time at the club and with the national team,” Messi told ESPN. “I enjoy the little details that I know I will miss when I stop playing.”

The Copa America also marks the impending farewell of Ángel di Maria, Messi’s long-time teammate, who is set to retire from international soccer after the tournament. This has fueled further speculation about Messi’s future with the national team.

“As long as I feel like I’m fine and I can continue contributing, I’m going to do it. Today, the only thing I think about is getting to the Copa America well and being able to compete,” Messi told the Star Plus platform in December. “Fighting for it again, as we always did, trying to be champions.”

Argentina’s all-time top scorer, with 26 World Cup appearances, Messi is also eyeing records in the Copa America. He seeks to become the tournament’s leading scorer, currently holding 13 goals across six editions, just four behind record-holders Norberto Méndez of Argentina and Zizinho of Brazil with 17. Additionally, Messi aims to set the record for the most appearances in Copa America, a title he currently shares with former Chilean goalkeeper Sergio Livingston at 34 games.

Messi’s teammates are hopeful he will continue with the national team. “We’ll see how long, but while he’s here we’re going to enjoy it to the fullest,” said Argentina defender Cristian Romero. “We grew up watching him. We are part of those tournaments.”

As the Copa America unfolds, the world will watch closely to see if this tournament becomes the grand finale of Lionel Messi’s international career.