A heartbroken Lionel Messi has declared he is retiring from international football, sending the national team into disarray.
The forward missed a penalty in the Copa America Centenario final shoot-out against Chile as his team lost their third final in three years.
Messi, who was in tears after the match, spoke after the game to Argentine television and explained his decision.
Lionel Messi has retired from international duty after missing in a penalty shootout in the Copa America final
The forward was in tears after Argentina were beaten by Chile in Sunday’s Copa America final
MESSI’S CAREER STATS
113 – Caps for Argentina.
Debut: vs Hungary 2005.
55 – Goals for Argentina. His five goals in the 2016 Copa America saw him pass Gabriel Batistuta as his nation’s all-time leading scorer.
Finals: Copa America 2007, 2015, 2016; World Cup 2014.
170 – Messi’s height in centimetres (5ft 6in).
72 – Messi’s weight in kilograms (11st 5lbs).
47 – Seconds into his Argentina debut before he was sent off, against Hungary in 2005, aged 18, after coming on as a substitute.
2008 – Olympic gold in Beijing is Messi’s only major international honour.
453 – Goals for Barcelona, in 531 games, including a Primera Division record of 312 goals.
8 – Primera Division titles with Barcelona.
4 – Champions League wins with Barca.
5 – Times he has won the FIFA Ballon d’Or, as the world’s best player (in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015).
‘That’s it. It’s over for me with the national team,’ he explained.
‘It’s not for me. That’s four finals. The decision has been made, I think so. [Winning] is what I wanted most. It didn’t come. I think that’s it. That’s how I feel now, what I think. It’s a great sadness. It hurts not to be a champion.’
Messi may yet change his mind, but for now the constant disappointment with his national side and his long-term discontent with the AFA (Argentine Football Association) have led to this reaction.
Sergio Aguero revealed that other players could be considering their futures with the side too, and Sportsmail has learned Javier Mascherano could be one of the stars who may quit.
‘Messi probably won’t be the only player to leave the national team,’ said Aguero.
‘There are various players who are considering quitting. This is the worst I’ve seen the dressing room. Worse than after the other two finals [the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America].’
In 2007 Messi first tasted defeat in a final with Argentina, losing 3-0 to Brazil in the Copa America.
That was followed by disappointment against Germany in 2014, plus defeats to Chile two years running in the Copa America again.
The Argentina talisman missed his side’s first penalty in the shoot-out against Chile
Messi had the chance to give his side a crucial advantage but his effort sailed high and over the crossbar
Messi cut a dejected figure – stood on his own – as Argentina’s trophy drought was extended to 23 years
Messi reacts after he missed his penalty, blazing his shot over the crossbar against Chile
Messi posted on Instagram on Wednesda,y because of a delay to Argentina’s flight to New Jersey from Houston, writing: ‘What a disaster the AFA is.’
He later pledged to go into greater detail about his grievances after the tournament.
On Friday FIFA announced they have taken control of the AFA and are electing an emergency panel to manage its affairs, after president Luis Segura was charged with fraud on Thursday.
Some of Messi’s team-mates were shocked by his decision to quit the national team.
‘I think Messi spoke in the heat of the moment because such a great opportunity escaped us,’ said Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero.
The five-time world player of the year has failed to get his hands on any silverware with Argentina
Messi was left heartbroken yet again as he lost another final with the Argentina national team
Messi pictured removing his runners-up medal following the defeat by Chile on penalties
Messi can’t hide his disappointment after Argentina were beaten by Chile in penalty shoot-out
Messi surrounded by Chile’s Alexis Sanchez, Gary Medel, Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz
Messi goes down in the box after flicking the ball past a Chile defender during an attack in the first half
The Argentina talisman was booked by referee Heber Lopes following his tumble in the box in the first half
Aguero added: ‘I don’t know what the other players think but what I saw today in the dressing room I have never seen before.’
Messi was crushed by the defeat, sitting on the substitutes bench for several minutes after Lucas Biglia missed his spot-kick and Francisco Silva sealed the victory for Chile, 4-2 on penalties after a 0-0 draw over 120 minutes.
Romero collected the fair play award that Argentina won for the tournament, although as captain it theoretically should have been Messi, but he had other matters on his mind.
Messi was successful at youth level, winning the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship with Argentina
Messi reached the final of the 2007 Copa América, where he was named young player of the tournament
Messi suffered heartbreak in the 2014 World Cup final as Argentina were beaten 1-0 by Germany