From Maradona's long shadow to an inept FA, the real reasons behind Messi's international retirement

Team 33's Raf Diallo speaks to Daniel Edwards of The Buenos Aires Herald about a shock announcement

Argentina, Lionel Messi

Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts after losing 4-2 to Chile in penalty kicks during the Copa America Centenario championship soccer match, Sunday, June 26, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

In terms of raw sadness, last night's Copa America Centenrario final was the most emotional I can remember seeing Lionel Messi.

The Barcelona star skied a penalty in the shootout as Argentina lost the final for a second year in a row in the same manner and to the same opposition, Chile.

Coupled with the 2014 World Cup final defeat to Germany, that's three defeats in three major finals for his country in the last two years.

But he took everyone by surprise when he announced his retirement from international football at the age of just 29.

And that's not all; other team-mates like Sergio Aguero, Javier Mascherano are also believed to be considering calling an end to their international careers right in the middle of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. 

To get to the bottom of Messi's decision, Newstalk's Team 33 spoke to The Buenos Aires Herald football writer Daniel Edwards.

You can listen in right here:

Inept FA

One issue behind Messi's decision is the ineptitude of an Argentina FA (AFA) that is not fit for purpose. As Edwards explains, "the Argentine FA is in a complete mess at the moment and it has been really ever since the death of [former president] Julio Grondona just after the 2014 World Cup. It's in a state of limbo, let's say," says Daniel of an FA led by an interim president without much popular support.

"Now, just before the Copa America, there was a judicial intervention and just last night, minutes before the final kicked off, there was talk that the judge in charge of the investigation was going to dismiss the observers that FIFA want to put in place to make sure that the intervention is done in a way that's acceptable for them. So I think the AFA is a big factor in this," said Edwards.

 

 

Una vez mas esperando en un avion para intentar salir al destino .. Que desastre son los de AFA por dios !!!!

A photo posted by Leo Messi (@leomessi) on

And although you would think Messi and his team-mates would be immune from all this, there were complaints about facilities.

Indeed, in the Instagram post above, Messi hits out publicly at the FA, referring to them as a "disaster", explaining that he, Aguero and the rest of the team were waiting yet again for a plane to take them to their destination.

"It was a rare outburst from Messi, who tries to keep out of politics and off-field complaints as much as he can. But saying that the AFA's a disaster, to be honest, is very hard to disagree with," says Edwards, making a point that poor standards, which are reflected in the domestic league, are not befitting of a two-time World Cup winning nation with some of the best players on the planet.  

Messi and Maradona at the 2010 World Cup (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Maradona's Shadow

Argentine football is always searching for the next Maradona. Lionel Messi arguably has surpassed the 1986 World Cup winner overall throughout his career if club form is also taken into account.

But given that he left for Barcelona as a teenager, coupled with his quiet demeanour, his popularity has not hit the heights it arguably should have in his homeland. Also, Maradona has occasionally been critical of the player, intimating that the departing captain is not a leader despite his incredible talent. Indeed before the final, he had stated Argentina's players need not return home if they lost to Chile.

"We know that Maradona is a controversial guy and he likes to make the headlines. Even worse than that, in my opinion, the fact he continues to get this oxygen... this is a phenomenon which is almost peculiar to Argentina, because the whole country lives with the idea of finding the new Maradona," Daniel explains.

"The Argentine press, and as a result a lot of the fans, have this insidious need to find a new Maradona. Messi tried his best and he gave absolutely everything to the national team. But he's not Maradona and it's pointless to even make this comparison. It's sort of a collusion between the press and Maradona himself, who lives off what he did for Argentina." 

Could Messi change his mind?

As Daniel says, Argentina would be "stupid" not to try and persuade Messi to make a U-turn because they "need him. But on a more general level, this renovation of the Argentina team is overdue."

With more than just Messi alone retiring, it's now up to towards newcomers like Matías Kranevitter and Paulo Dybala to provide fresh impetus to a talented generation that has consistently failed to get over the final hurdle.