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Lionel Messi’s patriotism was always questioned but his commitment to Argenti was undeniable

EAST RUTHERFORD, June 27: Lionel Messi will feel a great weight lifting from his shoulders now that he has given up on leading Argenti to a major trophy but the shadow of the man who did mage it – Diego Marado – will be cast longer than ever over his legacy this morning.

Marado dropped a grede into Argenti’s tourment hopes two weeks back when apparently off microphone, he told Pele, no less, that he thought Messi did not have the persolity to be a leader.

The microphones at the promotiol event were on, conspiracy theorists believe Marado knew that. Was it an attempt to motivate Messi? Or was it another dig in the ribs from one legend to another? The old master is now safe in the knowledge that Messi will never match him on the intertiol stage.

Messi’s patriotism, as much as his leadership, has always been questioned. That is what comes from never having been idolised as a Boca, River or Independiente player before heading to Europe. No matter that despite the fact that he moved to Catalonia aged 13, Messi turned down Spain’s advances to make him one of theirs.

Born and raised in central Argenti, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency as a child. At age 13, he relocated to Spain to join Barcelo, who agreed to pay for his medical treatment. After a fast progression through Barcelo’s youth academy, Messi made his competitive debut aged 17 in October 2004.

As a dual Argentine–Spanish tiol, Messi was eligible to play for the tiol team of both countries. Selectors for Spain’s Under-17 squad began pursuing him in 2003 after Barcelo’s director of football, Carles Rexach, alerted the Royal Spanish Football Federation to their young player. Messi declined the offer, having aspired to represent La Albiceleste since childhood. To further prevent Spain from taking him, the Argentine Football Association organised two Under-20 friendlies in June 2004, against Paraguay and Uruguay, with the purpose of filizing Messi’s status as an Argenti player in FIFA. Five days after his seventeenth birthday, on 29 June, he made his debut for his country against Paraguay, scoring once and providing two assists in their 8–0 victory.

Former Team Spain coach Vicente del Bosque admitted last year: “There was an attempt to do that (persude Messi to switch allegiances) but he decided to stick with the country of his birth; he remained steadfast.”

Messi also showed his commitment by travelling 30,000 kilometres in a few days so he could train with Argenti ahead of the Copa America, then appear before a Spanish court where he faced tax evasion charges and return to be with his team-mates for the tourment. But none of that is enough to convince so many in his homeland that playing for his country means as much to him, as it does to a Boca hero such as Carlos Tevez or a former River Plate player such as Gonzalo Higuain.

Had Messi lifted silverware everything would have changed but the silverware eluded him.

He won gold with Argenti in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Under 20 World Cup in 2005, all of which seemed to hail the dawn of a glorious future for Argenti. But Messi has been a beaten filist four times since.

He was a runner-up in the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and in the 2014 World Cup.

Sunday’s fil was his third failure at the fil hurdle of an intertiol tourment in as many years and the emotion was too much as, through tears, he told the world he was quitting after the fil whistle.

And it is true that Messi has been on the brink before but with team-mate and close friend Javier Mascherano also considering his intertiol future, this may be the point of no return.

Messi walks away as his country’s all-time top scorer after moving on to 55 goals in the semi-fil success over USA and going past Gabriel Batistuta.

And he can also line up the Ballon d’Or trophies having won the biggest individual prize in football in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. But what he really wanted has remained beyond his grasp.

When asked whether his decision was fil on Sunday night, he said: ‘I think so. That is what I feel right now.’

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup there will be attempts to get him to change his mind and whoever’s task it is to take Argenti into that tourment, his first job will be to talk Messi around. At 29, Messi’s intertiol retirement comes scandalously early.

He was crying on the pitch at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, after missing in the pelty shootout, as Argenti lost 4-2 to Chile. Football should shed a tear to if he sticks to his decision and we never see him again in an Argenti shirt.