Lionel Messi, last qualifier for the World Cup with Argentina? Star hints retirement may be near
Lionel Messi will be 39 by the time the 2026 World Cup takes place four years from now, leading many to believe his current run for the 2022 FIFA trophy will likely be the legend’s last with Argentina. The team have long since qualified for Qatar 2022, as they look to help Messi lift the only major international trophy he hasn’t won in his illustrious career.
He may have dropped more than a hint as to his future plans on March 25. It was then that Messi played an inspired game at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, leading his side to a 3-0 win over Venezuela in the final home World Cup qualifier of the 2022 World Cup. It felt like Messi felt the special occasion, as he had a man-of-the-match performance and one of his best games of the season for club or country.
When asked after the game if he would continue to play in the World Cup qualifiers after the 2022 World Cup, Messi said he expected things to change.
“I don’t know. The truth is, I don’t know,” he told the media in translated post-match comments. “I’m thinking of what’s next, which is Ecuador [final 2022 World Cup qualifier]and the preparation matches that we have after the one that is in July, and I think September, October, then the World Cup [in Qatar].
“So I don’t know,” he continued. “After the  World Cup I will have to rethink a lot of things, whether it goes well or not, I hope in the best way. But surely after the World Cup a lot of things change.”
Messi made his debut for Argentina in September 2005 and by his second game he had already picked up an assist. Going into the next World Cup qualifying campaign, he was a steadfast starter. If he was fit, he would play for his country.
And it’s been like that for all the years. But that time may finally be coming to an end. Messi is now 34 and some claim his powers are on the wane. Admittedly, for his club, he no longer looks like the player he was.
While this is his last World Cup appearance with Argentina, he can leave knowing he has provided his compatriots with many memorable moments. Here’s a look at his World Cup qualifying record for Argentina.
CONTINUED: CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers Results
Messi’s last World Cup qualifier for Argentina?
Since that game in 2005, Messi has made 159 appearances for Argentina, including 59 in World Cup qualifiers.
But Messi will turn 35 in the summer of 2022 and it’s no wonder he wants to rethink things after the World Cup in Qatar. Undertaking another four-year qualifying cycle at his age can be expensive. South America are playing one of the most grueling qualifying campaigns with 18 games in total spread over several years, with games played across the continent.
Messi has once announced his international retirement, after Argentina lost the 2016 Copa America final to Chile in a penalty shootout. It was the fourth time he had been heartbroken in an international tournament final: there were two other Copa America league matches lost to Chile (2015) and Brazil (2007), and a 2014 World Cup final which saw Germany win 1-0.
As is his style, Messi has rarely addressed rumors about his future. Many speculated that the 2018 World Cup would be his last, yet he played a key role in Argentina’s qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Messi goals in World Cup qualifiers
Messi has been a major contributor to Argentina’s World Cup races in the past, helping the country qualify for five consecutive FIFA tournaments.
He is his country’s all-time leading scorer (80+ goals) and has more World Cup qualifying goals (28) than any player in South American qualifying history.
CONTINUED: Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Trophies, goals, stats
Did Messi win the World Cup?
Messi has never won the FIFA World Cup, although he came close.
Here is an overview of his performance, tournament by tournament:
|Eliminated by||Matches played
|2018||Round of 16||France||4||1|
As can be quickly seen above, Argentina have generally disappointed at World Cups during Messi’s career, with 2014 being the exception. This edition was also Messi’s best World Cup, and getting the best out of him was a key factor in their strong performance.
Messi also won the Copa America with Argentina in 2021 after being a losing finalist in this competition three times (in 2007, 2015 and 2016).
Some have suggested that the main reason Messi didn’t retire after the 2018 World Cup disappointment was because he wanted to win at least one trophy with Argentina. Although it’s not the same as the World Cup, winning the 2021 Copa America may have scratched that itch for him. If Argentina doesn’t win the World Cup this year, he could still decide to end his international career.
Goals for Lionel Messi’s national team in Argentina
If the game against Venezuela on March 25 was the last game Messi played for the national team on Argentinian soil, it was a nice way out.
He played a total of 42 games (27 goals) in Argentina during his career.
|WC Qualifier||October 11, 2008||Uruguay||1||2-1|
|WC Qualifier||March 28, 2009||Venezuela||1||4-0|
|Friendly||September 7, 2010||Spain||1||4-1|
|Friendly||June 20, 2011||Albania||1||4-0|
|WC Qualifier||October 8, 2011||Chile||1||4-1|
|WC Qualifier||June 3, 2012||Ecuador||1||4-0|
|WC Qualifier||September 8, 2012||Paraguay||1||3-1|
|WC Qualifier||October 13, 2012||Uruguay||2||3-0|
|WC Qualifier||March 23, 2013||Venezuela||1||3-0|
|Friendly||July 6, 2014||Slovenia||1||2-0|
|WC Qualifier||March 30, 2016||Bolivia||1||2-0|
|WC Qualifier||September 2, 2016||Uruguay||1||1-0|
|WC Qualifier||November 16, 2016||Colombia||1||3-0|
|WC Qualifier||March 24, 2017||Chile||1||1-0|
|Friendly||May 30, 2018||Haiti||3||4-0|
|Friendly||June 8, 2019||Nicaragua||2||5-1|
|WC Qualifier||October 9, 2020||Ecuador||1||1-0|
|WC Qualifier||June 4, 2021||Chile||1||1-1|
|WC Qualifier||September 10, 2021||Bolivia||3||3-0|
|WC Qualifier||October 11, 2021||Uruguay||1||3-0|
|WC Qualifier||March 25, 2022||Venezuela||1||3-0|