Lionel Messi’s retirement announcement from international duty, right after Copa America 2016 finals defeat for Argentina, sent shockwaves across the planet. So much so, that even English Premier League’s best player Sergio Aguero and FC Barcelona’s top player Javier Mascherano’s retiring went unnoticed.
There is random news that even Angel Di Maria, Lucas Biglia, Gonzalo Higuain and Ezequiel Lavezzi are set to announce retirement too. But the bigger news, print and social media is all about Messi, Messi, Messi. Or rather “Please come back Messi”. There are online petitions, signature campaigns and all sorts of mush going around.
But should Messi reconsider retirement. I think not. Leo chose the best time to retire and he shouldn’t bother coming back. Here’s five reasons why.
1> Retire when its “Why” than “When”
Top players have an enriching legacy of memories to protect. As it is, years down, they are remembered more for what they didn’t achieve (minority element) than that they did (majority content). Speak Zidane and a head butt comes to mind! Discuss the late Johann Cryuff and no World Cup will immediately be mentioned.
Timing a retirement is always a dicey game. You want to play more, enjoy more, serve more. Fans want more. But its always best to retire when people go “Why” than asking “When”! When you retire late, there are chances of more bad memories being added to the list. At this stage his glories far far outweigh the odd regret. Actually just one regret. You rather retire with this than risk anything worse.
To beat the only regret, he needs to play 2018 World Cup and win it. Its a long shot! He rather give this time to the AFA to groom a young talent.
2> Gave his best, took them to their best
Argentina has no silverware to show since 1993. In the period between 1994 and 2006 they barely made it to one Copa America final (2004) and two low key FIFA Confederation cup finals (1995, 2005). Leo has taken them to four finals between 2007 and 2016. Even in the two World Cups he played a decisive role (2010 and 2014) he took them to quarter finals and finals respectively. In the previous four World cups, Argentina have at max reached the quarter finals (1998, 2006).
So really, Messi has taken them to an optimal point, up to where he could. I dare say, where Argentina could at max achieve. They had an above average team, but never a world beating one.
To add, no non European team has won a World Cup held in Europe since Brazil in 1958. In cooler Russian conditions, the chances of Argentina winning World Cup 2018, are very very remote. It’s better to retire being remembered as one who took the team to three consecutive finals.
3> New generation, New belief needed
You can be rest assured this generation of Argentine players have stopped believing they can win finals for their nation. A look at their game at New Jersey on Sunday had a story in itself. They started wth little adventure or attacking intent. Things got worse once Marcus Rojo got (unfairly) red carded. Even as a viewer i started getting edgy. It’s just not in the stars – I started thinking. Possibly the team too felt that way. They lacked ideas, enthusiasm and killer instinct. Infact most of the extra time period saw the Chilean team attack with more vigour.
The only glimmer of hope came when Arturo Vidal missed his spot kick. The sinking feeling, though, returned instantly when Messi missed his. It’s just not in their destiny. The generation of players are absolutely correct to retire. Argentina need young blood, with fresh belief to take them ahead. And they are a nation who frequently churn out quality players, so fans needn’t worry.
4> This mass trashing must stop
It’s very strange but when Argentina lose a final, or any game as matter of fact, only Lionel Messi is blamed. No one is mocking Tata Martino as English fans are doing to their manager Roy Hodgson. No one says the Albicleste team didnt deserve to win.
Ex-players, superstars, media and fans have all gone wild in search of their moment of glory. Unfair question marks over loyalty to nation, preserving energies for club, playing for money and all sorts of ridiculous rants have come up. Some of those comments are extremely hurting, even to fans.
I wonder how thick skinned a player has to be to tolerate all this. Imagine Diego Maradona questioning his leadership skills! Or a television channel panel checking on his commitment to the nation. Messi’s announcement will hopefully have stunned those arm chair experts and it will spare future generation players from such rants.
5> Glittering club career awaits
For all the patriotic hullabaloo, a professional footballer is committed to the national team only for two months every two years. In between, they are called off and on to play qualifiers and then sometimes, irritatingly, to play friendlies. South American players, plying trade in Europe, often need to fly across the Atlantic Ocean to play two games over 4-5 days, some in tough altitude conditions.
The club still remains the main entity and caretaker of the player. In Messi’s case, Barcelona have nurtured, shaped, paid hospital bills, cured and handheld him to the best player of the world pedestal. For fans of club football, he owes them peak playing health and shape for next 3 years. They love making the ‘Maesssi Maessi’ chants all across the stadium.
Barcelona fans will recall how in the crucial month of April 2016, their South American stars returned jaded from few silly friendlies. The fatigue and tiredness led to underperformance as Barcelona got knocked out of Champions League and even suffered in their domestic title race.
Messi isn’t getting younger and his injuries have shown an increasing trend. Barcelona are no ordinary club. They compete in all tournaments till the last stages. Past two seasons Barcelona have played 12% more games than any other side. They need to optimize Messi’s playing time and peak abilities against the natural effects of aging. Sending him for qualifiers and risk him getting injured serves no purpose.
Messi is messiah of Football. His cv needs no certification. Undoubtedly the best this generation saw and one of the finest ever. Let him concentrate on club football and us relish the performances in a bid to see him grow to unarguably the best player ever.
He must not come out of International retirement.