Lionel Messi has been urged to reconsider his international retirement by Argentina legend Diego Maradona and the country’s president. The forward, 29, quit after missing in a penalty shootout as Argentina were beaten by Chile in the Copa America – a fourth major final loss in nine years. “Those saying he should quit don’t want us to see what a disaster Argentinean football has become,” Maradona told La Nacion newspaper. “Messi must go on.” Maradona, who captained Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup and managed the team at the 2010 World Cup, added: “Messi has to stay because he will reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia in conditions to become world champion. “The lads have to be supported more to help him take the team forward.” Messi said after Sunday’s defeat that for him, the national team was “over” and that “it hurts not to be a champion”.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri said he called Messi to tell him “how proud he feels of the national team’s performance and asked him not to listen to the criticism”. He added he hopes to meet the player next week and convince him to return to the national team. “The truth is that it’s good fortune, a joy, a gift from God to have the best player in the world in a country like ours that is so football-crazy,” added Macri. Messi has won eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with his club, Spanish side Barcelona. But his only major international honour is Olympic gold at the 2008 Games. Defeat on Sunday was the second time in two years Argentina have lost the Copa America final to Chile on penalties, while they were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final. Messi, who was been awarded the Ballon d’Or five times, was also on the losing side against Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final. Argentina are already six games into their qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup. They are third in the table, two points behind leaders Uruguay. The top four teams progress to the finals in Russia, while the team finishing fifth qualifies for a two-legged play-off against the best team from Oceania.