Diego Maradona has pleaded with Argentina captain Lionel Messi not to retire from international football despite their Copa America final defeat to Chile.
Messi had on Sunday announced his retirement from international duty after missing in a penalty shootout as Argentina lost a fourth major final in nine years.
This made it the second successive year Chile had beaten Argentina on penalties in the final. Last year’s Copa America title was their first.
Argentine legend Maradona has urged the five-time Ballon d’Or winner to retract his decision and play on until the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Maradona told La Nacion:
“Messi has to stay in the national team. He will go to Russia in form to be world champion. He has to rely more on boys who can help take the team forward and less on those who say they have to go.
“Those who are saying he should quit are doing it so that we won’t see what a disaster Argentine football has become.”
Maradona joined in criticizing the Argentina Football Association (AFA), blaming them for poor planning which included a delayed flight at the Houston airport.
“I am very sorry and very angry with what is happening to Argentine football. We hit bottom, we reached the bottom.”
Messi is widely rated as the best player in the world, but Sunday’s loss was his fourth defeat in an international final for Argentina. He is a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, and is representing his country for the 112th time since making his debut in 2005 as an 18-year old.
Messi has scored 55 times, including five this tournament. He surpassed Gabriel Batistuta’s all-time leading mark of 54 for Argentina with a superb free-kick in last week’s semi-final against the US. With Barcelona, he has has scored 453 times in 531 games, including a La Liga record