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Lionel Messi signaled he doesn’t intend to represent Argentina when the team looks to defend its World Cup title in 2026.
“I think not. [Qatar] was my last World Cup,” he said to Chinese outlet Titan Sports (via ESPN’s Adriana Garcia). “I’ll see how things go, but as it is right now, no, I won’t go to the next World Cup.”
The 35-year-old acknowledged in February his age would likely be a prohibitive factor, but he left the door open on one more World Cup run.
Messi’s impending move to Inter Miami and MLS also represents him taking a bit of a step back. He seemingly has some good years left, but leaving Europe means he’ll no longer be competing at the highest levels of the sport.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner hasn’t walked away from the international game entirely. He was included in the Argentina roster ahead of the team’s upcoming friendlies against Australia and Indonesia.
It seems reasonable to assume he’ll want to compete in the 2024 Copa América as well since that’s not too far into the future. La Albiceleste are the reigning champions in that tournament.
But it will be fitting if the lasting image of Messi in the World Cup is him being carried by his teammates as he holds the trophy aloft.
The 2022 World Cup was arguably the crowning achievement of Messi’s legendary career. In addition to Argentina’s team triumph, he was the Golden Ball winner, which is awarded to the best overall player, after he registered seven goals and three assists.
World-class athletes don’t often get to exit on top. That’s exactly what Messi will get to enjoy should he opt against donning the Argentina shirt in three years’ time.