Lionel Messi broke down in tears Sunday night as Argentina suffered another tournament heartbreak to Chile at Metlife Stadium near New York.
The lasting moment of the Copa America Centenario may be Messi missing in the penalty kick shootouts and then breaking down in tears. But now that may also be the last image of the 29-year-old superstar in an Argentina uniform.
Following the loss, Messi, in the heat of the moment, shockingly announced that he is quitting the national team.
"It is difficult, the time is hard for any analysis. In the dressing room I thought the national team was over for me, it is not for me," Messi said, per Argentina's social media account.
#Messi: "Es difícil, el momento es duro para cualquier análisis. En el vestuario pensé que se terminó para mí la Selección, no es para mí".— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) June 27, 2016
More from a dejected Messi on his way out of the stadium:
"I think it's best for everyone, for me and for many people who want it. The national team is over for me, it's a done decision. I tried many times [to win a title with Argentina] but did not," Messi told Argentine sports network TyC. "It's very difficult, but the decision has been made. I won't try it any longer and on this there will be no going back."
Messi, who seems both shaken and steady with this decision went on to talk about this being more bad fortune for him.
"I think that it happened again to me for a reason, it happened to me to miss the first penalty, which was important to gain an advantage."
Here's more from Messi at the mixed zone after the game, per TyC:
"I tried many times to win a title [with Argentina] and it couldn't be done, I wished like nobody else to take the lap of honor [with Argentina] but it was denied, it has to be that way."
"It is four finals that I've had to lose with the national team, the third in a row, we tried it and we searched for it and it happened," Messi said. "It hurts me like nobody else, I leave without being able to win a title."
This decision could also have a trickle down impact on the national team. In another slightly less shocking turn of events, it appears as if teammate Javier Mascherano is also finished.
Mascherano tampoco continuará en la Selección Argentina. pic.twitter.com/IBVcypxfiP— SportsCenter (@SC_ESPN) June 27, 2016
Mascherano is 32 but still an effective defender. He was weighing whether to call it quits after last year's loss, so we may have to take this and the Messi news with a grain of salt. That's a big loss, if it becomes official.
For Messi, it would be rare to see someone at his age and elite level step away from the international game.
As fans of soccer, let's all hope that these are merely the words a heartbroken man speaking to reporters in the heat of the moment following another crushing loss. Social media poked fun at Messi following the loss, and the cut from this disappointment is probably deep. He may need some time away from the national team like he did last year when Argentina lost to Chile in Santiago. And hopefully that sabbatical is enough time away to allow him to make a well thought-out choice.
Despite returning from injury, Messi had a marvelous tournament for Argentina, scoring a 19-minute hat trick off the bench against Panama and becoming Argentina's all-time leading scorer with a sick free kick goal in the semis against the United States. He is ahead of Gabriel Batistuta with 55 goals.
As incredible as his career has been with Barcelona, the only missing achievement for him is a trophy at the senior national team level. He has struck out the last three years: the Brazil World Cup in 2014 (vs. Germany), the 2015 Copa America (vs. Chile), and now the 2016 Copa America Centenario (vs. Chile). In all three of those games, Argentina has failed to score despite playing 120 minutes with extra time in each match.
As for Argentina, they'll participate in the Olympics in Rio, site of the infamous 2014 World Cup final. Manager Tata Martino announced in February that Messi had no intentions of playing in Rio. Messi won gold with Argentina at the 2008 summer games in Beijing. However, the Olympics are considered a youth tournament with the roster consisting of players 23 years of age or younger with three exceptions per squad. That is why Olympic gold with Argentina is not considered as a senior level success but as part of his youth career with Argentina.
Moving forward, Argentina will resume World Cup qualifying at home against Uruguay in September. Argentina currently stands in third place in CONMEBOL play, while Uruguay sits atop the table. Argentina could be as vulnerable as ever without Messi, trying to qualify for Russia 2018.
Hopefully Messi reconsiders everything in time to make his return in September. Hopefully this is only a sabbatical. We can only cross our collective fingers and hope.
It would be a great shame to lose the best player in the world, especially at 29. He's still got plenty of time to chase his coveted trophy.