• Our Opinion

Opinion: Time for Messi to win his first major international trophy

Nigeria v Argentina: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Getty Images

Lionel Messi and Argentina will travel to Brazil for the 46th edition of Copa America this summer, starting on June 14.

The story of Lionel Messi and the Argentina national team is not one the 31-year old would be proud of. Messi has won 10 Spanish championships, four Champions League titles, six Copa del Rey trophies, and five Ballon d’Ors, but the Argentine has never managed to win a major trophy for his country.

He got off to a perfect start though, back in 2005, winning the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands. It was the first time Messi put his name on the football map, with an extraordinary performance throughout the whole tournament.

An 18-year old boy at the time, Messi netted in each knockout game on the way to the final and crowned his excellent World Youth Championship with two goals in the deciding game against Nigeria. He won the Golden Shoe award with 6 goals and was also named as the best player of the competition.

In his first appearance at a major tournament, Leo scored his debut goal in a competitive game against Serbia and Montenegro in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Argentina was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Germany, while Messi spent the whole game on the bench.

One year later, Argentina traveled to Venezuela for the 2007 Copa America. Messi showed an impressive performance netting in the quarter-finals against Peru, as well as the semi-finals against Mexico. He reached his first big final with the national team, but Brazil was too good, trashing La Albiceleste 3-0 in the deciding game.

In 2008 Messi, who established himself as a regular first-team player at Barcelona, was named in Argentina’s squad for the football tournament at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Juan Roman Riquelme, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero, Ever Banega and Javier Mascherano were also in the selection, as The White and Sky-Blues dominated the tournament winning their second gold in the Summer Olympics.

However, it doesn’t count as a major competition in football, because the teams are allowed to call up only three players over the age of 23 in the squad.

Messi toughest period in the national team jersey came in the period between 2014 and 2016. Argentina reached three consecutive finals, starting with the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Leo played an excellent tournament and won the Golden Ball award, but the Argentine skipper failed to make an impact in the final, as Mario Gotze’s with a 113th-minute winner won the World Cup for Germany.

In 2015 and 2016 Messi and Argentina reached back-to-back Copa America finals and suffered two defeats in pretty much the same manner. They faced Chile in both finals and both cames ended 0-0, with the Chileans being better in the penalty shootout.

Messi missed his penalty in the second final and shortly after the game announced his retirement from international football. He was greeted by fans with signs like “Don’t go, Leo” when the team landed in Buenos Aires and even the President of Argentina urged him not to quit.

Less than a month later, Messi changed his mind and was included in the squad for the national team’s upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers. He captained Argentina at the World Cup, but La Albiceleste had a disappointing campaign in Russia, as they only reached the Round of 16.

They now travel to Brazil for the 2019 Copa America. Messi will be 32 in June and this may be his final chance to guide Argentina to a major tournament triumph.

He is already the all-time top goalscorer of the national team with 64 goals, but if Leo wants to have his name written with golden letters in the history of his country, he will have to win a big trophy for Argentina, as Diego Armando Maradona did 33 years ago.