Events leading up to the announcement:
Lionel Messi made headlines after the 2014 World Cup when he was seen as being upset to receive the Golden Ball for the best player at the World Cup. He had the right to be upset as Argentina was defeated by Germany 1-0 during extra time. Skip forward to the 2015 Copa America Final. Messi was the only one to get his penalty kick in from the Argentina side during the shootout between Chile, and Argentina lost again.
Sunday, June 26th, 2016, a couple of days after Messi’s 29th birthday, Argentina faced Chile again in the 100 year anniversary of the Copa America. Even though Argentina had defeated Chile in the group stage, the final was evenly matched: with both teams down to 10 men each after two red cards. It was still 0-0 in extra time and led to another penalty shootout.
Argentina again lost the final. Three finals in three years. Argentina already suffered from a 23 year trophy drought, their last title being the 1993 Copa America. Diego Maradona, Argentina’s football Great, had told the National Team before the final, "Win or don’t return."
Diego Maradona at the 1986 World Cup.To make matters worse, Messi missed his penalty shot this time. The record five time FIFA ballon d’or winner and Captain of Argentina would no doubt have the most pressure to succeed. No matter if Messi had made the shot and Argentina still had lost the match, Messi would be criticized and questioned on why he can’t play better. Messi, prior to the final, had assisted with four goals and scored five goals. Messi was already playing better than anyone else! Argentina reached those finals with Messi's help.
Before the Copa America, Maradona had some criticisms of Messi: "He's a great person, but he has no personality. He doesn't have the personality to be a leader," he told Brazil's football great Pele during an event in Paris. Messi was always being pitted against Diego Maradona, who never won a Copa America himself and lost the 1990 World Cup, and Messi’s international failures were always being brought up in comparison to his own success at the club level to belittle him. The real question is where would Diego Maradona be without Jorge Valdano, Jose Luis Brown, and Jorge Burruchaga?
Did anyone say 'Hand of God' ?
Messi's dream since childhood was to represent Argentina Seleccion and he had resisted the notion of playing for Spain, his adopted home country since he was 13 years old.
His dreams were shattered on Sunday and he announced his retirement from International football.
"The national team is over for me," Messi Told the Argentine network TyC Sports. "It's been four finals, it's not meant for me. I tried. It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn't get it, so I think it's over."
"On top of everything, I missed the penalty kick," Messi told TyC. "I think this is best for everyone. First of all for me, and then for everyone. I think there are a lot of people who want this, who obviously are not satisfied, as we are not satisfied reaching a final and not winning it."
“So I think it’s over”
Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter that "more than ever I feel great pride for our team. I hope we can continue to have the joy of seeing the world's best player for many years."
He ended his tweet with the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio (#Don'tLeaveLio), and started a global trend.
The Argentine President also said "Messi is the biggest thing we have in Argentina, so you have to take care of him."
A sign over a train station
Post Messi’s exit, #Mexit also started trending, a play on Brexit
Like a neurotic parent, Diego Maradona became fatherly and told the site of local newspaper La Nacion "He must go on because he has it in him...he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion."
Other teammates such as Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano are also believed to be calling an end to their international careers right in the middle of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
"We are all s****y, we are trying to think about other things and continue on forward," said Aguero. "Unfortunately, the most broken one is Messi for his missed penalty. It is the worst I have ever seen him in the dressing rooms after a game.”
"I think Leo spoke in the heat of the moment because we missed that great chance," said Sergio Romero, Argentina’s goalkeeper. "I can't imagine a national team without Messi...”
Mascherano with Messi post match
An End of an Era?
Amid an outpouring of pleas for Messi’s return, a bronze statue of the soccer star was unveiled on Glory Street in the Capital of Argentina, which also hosts statues of other famous Argentinian athletes. He has already made his mark in Argentina with becoming the country’s all time scorer. Only the future will tell if Messi comes back or not to play for Argentina again...
An Adidas ad featuring Messi