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Lionel Messi rules out defending Argentina’s World Cup crown in 2026

Lionel Messi rules out defending Argentina’s World Cup crown in 2026

Argentina’s hero Lionel Messi has ruled out the prospect of helping his nation defend the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

Head coach Lionel Scaloni had left the door wide open should Messi decide to represent his country in football’s biggest tournament again in four years, saying the 35-year-old is ‘more than entitled’ to decide what he wants to do with his career.

“We need to save him a spot for the [next] World Cup,” Scaloni said. “If he wants to keep playing, he will be with us. 

“He is more than entitled to decide if he wants to keep playing and what he wants to do with his career. It is such a huge pleasure to coach him. Everything he transmits to his teammates is something unparalleled that I have never seen before.”

Messi also admitted that he had no intention of calling time on his glittering international career after captaining La Albiceleste to glory in Qatar, preferring to bask in the glory of his achievement a little while longer.

However, the Paris Saint-Germain forward has confirmed that Sunday’s dramatic final against France will be his last World Cup appearance for Argentina.

Asked if he thought this was his last World Cup match, Messi said (via Evening Standard): “As I’ve said before, it is. They (the fans in Argentina) should wait for us. We’re coming home to celebrate with them.

“We’ve done it. We couldn’t have asked for more. I thank God for everything he gave me, for this outcome, for this trophy that I dreamt of, my teammates, and Argentina too. What can I say…we are world champions.”

Messi, who ended the World Cup as the tournament’s best player, and the second-highest goal scorer with seven goals (just one behind Kylian Mbappe with eight), was over the moon after finally grasping a trophy that has eluded him for much of his glory-laden career.

Argentina’s little magician refused to be drawn into analysis of the breathtaking finale and instead was focused on celebrating his milestone.

“I’m not going to analyse the match now, there’s no need,” he added. “We were destined to be world champions, and we are. The game developed as it did, but this is not the time for analysis, but for celebration.”

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