Buenos Aires/Santiago: Argentines begged Lionel Messi yesterday not to abandon the national team before the 2018 World Cup after he tearfully announced his retirement in frustration at another last-gasp international defeat.
The streets of Buenos Aires were deserted. Apart from the humiliation of being beaten on penalties for a second time by their neighbors, they were gutted at the news of what online wags were calling "LeoMexit — Messi's announced retirement from international service.
A hashtag in Spanish reading "Don't Go, Leo" spread on Twitter in the hours after the 29-year-old star striker said he was quitting the squad. "Don't go," echoed the popular sports newspaper Ole in its front-page headline.
"It is really unfair. Messi played well. It was the coach's mistake to field injured players," said Ricardo Miranda, 47, a passerby in a rainy Buenos Aires. As for the star striker, "He will not leave — you will see," Miranda added.
Some media blamed the players however for failing to land a killer blow in the final. Others branded Argentina's 23-year drought of international titles a "curse".
"The worst thing about this situation is that no other player was able to take advantage of the talent of the best player on the planet," wrote leading newspaper Clarin.