Barcelona: Lionel Messi's shock international retirement after Argentina's Copa America final defeat generated surprise and sympathy in the Spanish press for a superstar who has won everything with Barcelona and nothing with his country.
Lionel Messi. Pic/AFP
"Leo Mexit" was the main headline on the website of sports daily Marca. "The curse of Argentina and Messi has no end." Messi was distraught after missing a spot-kick as Chile snatched victory in a penalty shoot-out in New Jersey -- Messi's fourth straight defeat in a major final while representing Argentina.
By contrast the 29-year-old forward has won 24 titles since joining Barcelona in 2004 including eight Liga crowns and four Champions League trophies with Barcelona. "There is no explanation or advice possible, we know very well that Leo is the X factor of this team. His trophy cabinet is full with the Blaugrana (Barcelona), but the one he
reserves for Argentina is empty, and it's not for lack of trying," Marca
"Messi was clear, Argentina will never be Barca," wrote the deputy director of Sport, Lluís Mascaró, in an editorial. "For his club, Messi has won everything, and had everything he needed to succeed ... (in Argentina) he could never benefit from a football which protected him and allowed him to play at his best level. At Barca and in Barcelona, Messi is God. But not in Argentina," continued Mascaro.
"Leo will not return to the national team, he's reached a point where he has the impression that everything is his fault," wrote journalist Cristina Cubero in El Mundo Deportivo. According to Cubero, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has always been hampered by comparisons with Diego Maradona.
"Maradona gave Argentina what Leo Messi could never give on the pitch, even being the best footballer in the world. And Leo said 'enough'. No more tears, no more suffering and guilt." "The latest failure of Argentina in the Copa America was the final straw for Messi. He quits Argentina to focus in what really makes him happy: playing in Barcelona."