Argentina international and Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi will play in a World Cup for the last time this winter.
The 2022 Qatar World Cup will be the final edition in which the legendary playmaker will make an appearance for Argentina at that stage after playing in the 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 editions of the tournament. Argentina, led by Messi, reached the final of the tournament–and ultimately lost it to Germany – in 2014.
Messi, who turned 35 years last June, is playing in Paris for the second season in 2022/23 and will complete his two-year contract with the Parisian club on June 30, 2023.
Speaking to Sebastián “El Pollo” Vignolo in an exclusive interview conceded to ESPN, Messi opened his home to his fellow Argentine journalist to share his thoughts on a variety of topics.
The conversation reached a point in which the obvious question inevitably came to the fore. Will the 2022 World Cup be his last? “Yes, most probably it is,” replied Messi.
Messi would be 39 years old if he decided to make a U-turn and play for Argentina in the 2026 edition, which seems a little bit of a stretch. That doesn’t mean that judging by his current form, he wouldn’t be capable of making it to the tournament on his own merits. Messi has played the most minutes of all PSG outfield players this season while scoring 8 goals and assisting another 9 in 13 matches across all competitions.
As of Sept. 27 when Argentina played its last international match (a friendly against Jamaica) and one in which Messi played and scored two goals, “La Pulga” has appeared in 164 games for the senior Argentine squad scoring 90 goals for the Albiceleste.
Messi is, by far, the most prolific goalscorer in the history of Argentina with his 90 goals in all competitions dwarfing the tallies put up by Gabriel Batistuta (55) and Sergio Agüero, both joining Messi as the top goal-scorers for the South American nation. Just for context, the late Diego Maradona only scored 29 in 80 matches for Argentina.
Messi counts his club-level trophies in bunches with all sorts of titles won in both Spain and France, not to mention at continental and international (inter-continental matchups). Messi, though, had to wait until the summer of 2021 to lift his first cup with Argentina: the 2021 Copa America held in Brazil, of all places, beating the hosts in the final by a score of 1-0 (scored by then-PSG teammate Angel Di Maria).
Asked about that Copa America triumph, Messi “couldn’t believe it.” Lionel acknowledged that he “can’t explain it”. “It was one of the things left on my list before wrapping up my career. It was essential to me to win something with Argentina [before retiring] or else the loss of multiple international finals would always be stuck with me.”
Even though Argentina is widely considered one of the favorites to win the 2022 World Cup, Messi took some weight off the shoulders of his nation by telling Vignolo that “we are not the favorites, there are other nations above us,” before adding that “I don’t know if we’re such big candidates [to win the World Cup] but Argentina is always a contender because of its history and what [the World Cup] means to the country.”
Is it the last one? “Yes, most probably.” It might be, but it will for sure be one for the ages.