Four finals, four losses.

Such is the international record of the world’s most decorated footballer.  With a collection of five Ballon D’or, the most of any player ever, sitting in his cabinet alongside a decade’s worth of Golden Boots and World Player of the Year awards, Messi is no stranger to success.  He captained his club team, FC Barcelona, to a league treble – that is, three trophies – in the 2014-15 season, making that side the only side to have ever completed the feat twice.

Unfortunately, he has been unable to translate his club success to an international level.  There are a bevy of reasons for this, but it is important to note that he cannot be the one to shoulder the blame.  Football is not an individual sport, it is very much a team game.  As was said by the man himself, “When the year starts the objective is to win it all with the team, personal records are secondary.”  The trophies he takes home would hardly be worth nothing without the 10 men he has by his side week in and week out.  Barcelona is considered by many to be the heart and soul of modern football, with a “tiki-taka” style of play that was first born in Amsterdam in the early 1990’s and popularized by Pep Guardiola, and is based on possession, pressure, and fast, clinical attacking and finishing.

After a heartbreaking loss to Chile in this year’s Copa America final, Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international football, stating “that the end has come for me and [Argentina].”  He has been to four finals, and has lost all four finals due to shortcomings that are necessarily beyond his control.  One man can only hold so much influence on the pitch.

It’s not as if Argentina’s national team is lacking in talent.  Sergio “Kun” Aguero, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Pastore, and Ezequiel Lavezzi round out a very solid and very talented side.  However, there is a distinct lack of a finishing touch among the side.  Messi is the all-time top goalscorer for Argentina, netting an impressive 55 goals for the senior team in 113 appearances.  He wins games on his own, and dragged his nation to the FIFA World Cup final in 2014 and again as recently as last month in the Copa America final against Chile.  However, Argentina needs a much more effective tactic than “give the ball to Leo.”

Cover image courtesy of Getty Images.

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