Lionel Messi, who brought joy to millions of football lovers the world over, announces tearful exit from international stage after missed penalty in 2-4 final defeat to Chile
New Jersey: Diminutive in stature, a giant of the club game, but Lionel Messi could not exert his influence on Argentina and announced his retirement from international football on Sunday.
Messi, who scored a record 55 goals in 113 appearances for his country, quit after missing a penalty as a second successive Copa America final saw Chile beat Argentina in a shoot-out.
The Barcelona playmaker, who turned 29 last week and stands at 5ft 6in, is regarded as one of the all time best players.
He's been named FIFA's best player in the world five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015) and helped Barca win every trophy available, but has been a runner-up four times in a major international tournament and ended his Argentina career without a title, and in tears.
It remains to be seen if, like many boxers, Messi returns, with qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Qatar under way. But, for now, Messi's final act was blazing the ball over the bar from 12 yards during the 2-4 shoot-out loss to Chile.
Argentina's Lionel Messi misses from the penalty spot in the Copa America Centenario final against Chile in New Jersey on Sunday. Pic/AP
"I tried many times to get a title and failed," Messi told Argentine TV network TyC Sports. "I think it's best for everyone, for me and for many people who want it. The choice for me is over. It is a decision. I tried many times (to be champion) but did not."
Having lost Copa America finals in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup final in 2014, Messi turned his back on the international game following the defeat at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Argentina are without a major tournament success in 23 years, since victory in the 1993 Copa America, while Messi's most notable international triumphs were 2008 Olympic gold and victory in the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
'No turning back'
"There are four finals, not for me, unfortunately, it was what I wanted. More than ever, I wanted to win at least this cup but (it) could not be. It's very hard, but the decision is taken. Now I will not try more and there will be no going back," added Messi, who became Argentine's record goalscorer last week.