Argentina captain Lionel Messi emerged from the ashes of retirement to inspire his country to a crucial 1-0 win over Uruguay in a FIFA World Cup qualifier on Thursday. The five time World Player of the Year struck on the stroke of half time to send the majority of the 40,000 fans in the Malvinas Argentinas stadium into raptures.
The win sent La Albiceleste to the top of South America’s FIFA World Cup qualifying table with 14 points from 7 matches.
The 29 year old had announced his shock retirement from international football in the immediate aftermath of Argentina’s heartbreaking penalty shootout defeat to Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario on 27 June, 2016.
“For me, the national team is over. I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion,” Messi told the British broadcaster BBC after the loss. “It was the thing I wanted the most, but I couldn’t get it, so I think it’s over. It’s very hard, but the decision is taken. Now I will not try more and there will be no going back.”
Video: Goal Messi (1-0) for Argentina against Uruguay. https://t.co/Z82O3oYXod
— Papers Of Barca (@PapersOfBarca) September 2, 2016
Eventually, Argentina’s newly appointed manager Edgardo Bauza persuaded Messi to rescind his retirement from international football on August 12.
Few could blame him for hanging his boots in the first place. Despite Messi’s best efforts, Argentina had gone on to lose three major international cup finals in the past two years. After his country’s latest soul crushing defeat in the Copa America final, Lionel Messi appeared utterly crestfallen.
Born in Rosario, Santa Fe, Messi left Argentina at the age of 13 to join FC Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy. Despite his record breaking exploits with the Catalan club over the past decade, Messi has never quite been able to win the hearts and minds of his own countrymen.
Yet, it is indisputable that no one in the national side has come closer to ending Argentina’s 23 year trophy drought than Messi. Without his inspirational leadership and brilliance, Argentina would have certainly been unable to reach these international finals in the first place. On June 22, Lionel Messi became Argentina’s all-time top goal scorer with 55 goals, surpassing the long standing record of Gabriel Batistuta.
The sheer thought never again witnessing the diminutive wizard weave his magic on the football field wearing that famous sky blue and white jersey brought millions of Argentinians to the streets. The hashtag “#NoTeVayasLio” or “Dont go Leo” started trending worldwide in the immediate aftermath of Messi’s retirement. This same message started appearing in billboards, street signs and graffiti walls across all major Argentine cities.
Messi’s departure compelled the Argentinians to bask in the age old adage – “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”.
Well, now he’s back. Don’t ever let him go again Argentina.