Copa America final: Lionel Messi tries to kill his ghosts

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His response, and that of Argentina, would undoubtedly be that the time is not for half measures. There is not a single player in the Argentina squad who has seen her win a World Cup. A majority have never seen their country lift the Copa América trophy, which Argentina has not won since 1993.

He’s made finals, of course, and a lot of them: losing to Brazil in the Copa in 2004 and 2007, and to Chile in 2015 and 2016. Considering how often the tournament is played – once every six months or so, it seems – and given Argentina’s resources, a winless generation, and Argentina’s gradual decline from world power to the usual second place, is a source of embarrassing embarrassment.

For Messi, however, it’s more personal. On two occasions in recent years he has considered retiring from the national team, effectively saying it was more of a problem than worth: once after losing the Copa final América 2016 and even more definitely following Argentina’s early elimination from 2018 World Cup.

Outside of Argentina, he would have been forgiven for doing so. For years the country’s soccer federation seemed to have little or no idea how to build a proper stage for the best player, certainly of his generation and possibly any other. Messi had to carry a whole nation on his back; when he stumbled under the weight it was because he was too weak, not the load too heavy.

Besides, on a personal level, he did not need international success. Football has emerged from the days when greatness was forged in the white heat of World Cups and continental championships. More and more, it is the Champions League that defines not only a player’s status, but also his legacy. This is where Messi, winner of four titles with Barcelona, ​​made himself immortal.

And he still couldn’t get away. Messi came back after 2016 and he came back after 2018 and he’s here, now, at 34, officially a free agent after his contract at Barcelona expired. Even though the remaining years of his career are suddenly mired in uncertainty – the club’s precarious financial situation makes it seem like he may not in fact be able to sign him again – Messi does what it must have done for a decade and a half: dragging Argentina in its wake.


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