Any Barcelona Stricture Tied to Messi’s Retirement?

Messi’s Moment of Sadness Reminds me of the Penalty that Baggio missed in the 1994 World Cup final after a stellar show all through the tournament!

Barcelona prevented Neymar from playing for Brazil in the Copa America finals that saw the samba kings fail to make it to the knockout stage.

The club’s reasoning was that it could not afford to miss a key player for too long a period – as Copa America is to be followed by the Olympics.

But while the same logic will have applied to team-mate Lionel Messi the latter still managed to play for Argentina at Copa America.

Messi Quits International Football: Any such Barcelona stricture may not have had any bearing on Messi’s decision to quit international football today. It does raise that suspicion, though. Neymar missed the Copa America but will play at the Olympics.

Messi played at the Copa America but his shock resignation will mean he will miss the Olympics. Perhaps there are some dots to be connected but I am only speculating! 

Messi already has an Olympic gold that he won with Argentina in Beijing in 2008. But the last four major finals have left him and Argentina without a title – something that is thought to be behind his premature retirement from international football.  

Two Shockers: The Copa America Centenario final today threw up one shocker on the field and another off it.

The first shocker of the day was Chile defeating Argentina 4-2 in the penalty shootout, with Messi ballooning his shot.

Soon after, a dejected Messi announced his retirement which meant while he would continue to play club football for Barcelona he would no longer represent Argentina.

Penalty shootouts are not the best of ways for a team to win a title. But if the teams are still unable to score after 90 minutes of play, plus 30 minutes of extra time, what do we make of it? From a spectator point of view it is easy to dismiss it as a lacklustre performance.

Messi

When Baggio the Hero Turned Villain: Today’s Messi fiasco reminded me of the 1994 World Cup final between Brazil and Italy, also played in the U.S. I was then working for the Singapore edition of Shoot, the British football weekly.

The match remained deadlocked, also goalless, after 120 minutes of play, leading to the penalty shootout. Roberto Baggio, who almost single-handedly steered Italy to the final, missed the final penalty kick, giving Brazil the World Cup title for the third time.

“Tie-Breaker or Heartbreaker:” I watched the finals at the office in the wee hours of the morning and quickly wrote a short editorial, titled “Tie-Breaker or Heartbreaker.” I felt very sorry for Baggio then, one of my all-time favourite players, as all his brilliance during the tournament was reduced to nought with a single, but crucial,  miss.

That sentiment now lies with Messi after today’s unfortunate miss – if  it was a shot saved by the goalkeeper the disappointment may not be much. But he had the goalkeeper dive to the wrong side but the ball was off target and over the bar. That was a pity but no player can be immune to nerves!

Messi, to me, is the finest player today. I hope he is persuaded to reconsider his retirement. I want to watch him in action at the Olympics in Rio – no, I am not going there but will follow it on live television!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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Filed under Copa America, Lionel Messi

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