Argentines begged Lionel Messi on Monday not to abandon the national team before the 2018 World Cup after he tearfully announced his retirement in frustration at another last-gasp international defeat, AFP reports.
As Chileans danced in the streets and honked their horns to hail their team’s victory by penalties in the Copa American Centenario, the rainy streets of Buenos Aires were deserted.
Apart from the humiliation of being beaten on penalties for a second time by their neighbours, they were gutted at the news of what online wags were calling “LeoMexit” – Messi’s announced retirement from international service.
A hashtag in Spanish reading “Don’t Go, Leo” spread on Twitter in the hours after the 29-year-old star striker said he was quitting the squad.
“Don’t go,” echoed the popular sports newspaper Ole in its front-page headline.
Messi left the pitch in tears having missed a penalty in Argentina’s 4-2 loss in the final shoot-out.
It was the fourth time he had lost the final of a big tournament with Argentina and the third in a row after defeat by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and Chile in last year’s Copa America.
“It is really unfair. Messi played well. It was the coach’s mistake to field injured players,” said Ricardo Miranda, 47, a passerby in a rainy Buenos Aires on Monday morning.
As for the star striker, “He will not leave – you will see,” Miranda added.
Some media blamed the players however for failing to land a killer blow in the final after an impressive Copa campaign.
Others branded Argentina’s 23-year drought of international titles a “curse”.