Messi makes World Cup announcement
Lionel Messi looks to be inching closer towards retiring from international football after the Argentina star affirmed that next month’s World Cup in Qatar will be his final appearance on global football’s biggest stage.
The Paris Saint-Germain superstar will turn 39 during the 2026 World Cup which is to be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, but he says that he is primed for just one more assault at claiming international football’s most sought-after prize.
Argentina head to Qatar as one of the pre-tournament favorites. Lionel Scaloni’s men are unbeaten in 35 games, a record which dates back to their last defeat in July 2019 and which includes their win in last year’s Copa America final against South American rivals Brazil, which ended Messi’s lengthy pursuit of major international football silverware.
But speaking to Argentine broadcaster Star+, Messi confirmed that his upcoming fifth World Cup tournament will be his last bid at helping his country emulate the Diego Maradona-led triumph from 1986.
“If it is my last World Cup? Yes, surely yes, surely yes,” Messi said when asked about his future in the famous blue and white jersey.
“I feel good physically, I can have a very good pre-season this year that I hadn't done the year before because of how everything went, I started training late, playing without rhythm, with the tournament already started, then I went to the national team, when I came back I had an injury and I never finished starting.”
After a challenging time in the initial stages of his emotionally-charged transfer from boyhood club Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain last season, during which his goalscoring touch seemed to abandon him, Messi has rediscovered his form at an ideal time ahead of his trip to the Middle East.
He has claimed five goals and seven assists in just nine league games so far this season for his French club; an impressive tally when you consider that he scored just six goals in his debut Ligue 1 campaign.
And the iconic forward admits that he is aware of the pressure on his shoulders to help his country deliver their first World Cup in 36 years.
“I am counting the days for the World Cup,” he said.
“The truth is, there is a little anxiety of wanting it to be now and the nerves of saying, ‘well, we're here, what's going to happen, it's the last one, how is it going to go’. And, yes, on the one hand we can't wait for it to arrive, and on the other the s*** of wanting it to go fine.”
Argentina were drawn with Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland in World Cup Group C and while he admits that their opponents may cause Argentina a great deal of difficulty, Messi says that his team will arrive in Qatar in fine form.
“We arrive at a very good moment because of the way everything happened, with a very armed and very strong group, but in a World Cup anything can happen,” said the star.
“All the matches are difficult, that is why a World Cup is so special because the favorites are not always the ones who end up winning or doing the path that one expected.
“I don't know if we are the great candidates, but Argentina in itself is always a candidate for history, for what it means, more now at the moment we arrived, but we are not the favorites, I think there are other teams that are above.”