5 ways in which Messi's absence might benefit Argentina
Argentina is one of the most prestigious national football teams in the world. With two World Cup triumphs and 14 Copa America wins, they are among the most decorated countries in football history.
A steady supply of world-class players ensures the country is always in the upper echelons of international football, and perennially considered among the favourites to triumph in an international tournament.
However, for all of the talented footballers who have represented Le Albeceleste in the last two decades, the country finds itself embroiled in an international trophy drought. There has been no senior national team title since their Copa America win of 1993, while the last time they lifted the most prestigious trophy in football was when inspirational legend Diego Maradona captained his country to victory at the 1986 World Cup.
This is rather appalling for a country which has seen the likes of Gabriel Batistuta, Hernan Crespo, Diego Simeone, Mauricio Pochetino, Ariel Ortega, Juan Sebastian Veron, Juan Roman Riquelme, to name a few.
Hopes have been raised in every tournament since the 1993 Copa win, and each time, those hopes got dashed as a talented crop of players failed to step up to the occasion.
These hopes reached new heights with the emergence of an arguably even more talented group of young players led by a certain Lionel Messi, who triumphed in consecutive World Cups at Youth level in 2005 and 2007.
These youngsters, which included Messi, Aguero, Fernando Gago, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez were seen as future world beaters who would eventually end their nation’s quest for global domination.
The growth of Lionel Messi into arguably the greatest player of all time only intensified those hopes, and many believed that with him leading the line, Argentina could once again become kings of world football.
As it turns out, over 13 years on from bursting onto world consciousness in Netherlands 2005, Lionel Messi is no closer to achieving his dreams with the national team despite achieving fulfilment on an individual and at club level.
After the heartbreaking defeat in the final of the Copa America Centenario in 2016 which made it a hat-trick of consecutive final defeats for the 31-year-old, a distraught Messi felt the disappointment was too much and announced his retirement from international football.
The country was sent into shockwaves, and pleas from all and sundry including the president of Argentina finally convinced Messi to rescind his decision.
He came back to inspire his country in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but once again, Argentina flattered to deceive, and the buck of the blame was once more laid at the feet of Lionel Messi, with a lot of his compatriots including Diego Maradona voicing their belief that he failed to step up to the plate.
As expected, there were changes to the Argentine setup following their shambolic World Cup campaign. Jorge Sampaoli announced his resignation to be replaced by Lionel Scaloni, while record appearance maker Javier Mascherano also announced his retirement from international duties.
Even though he was silent on his future with the Argentine team, there was a lot of speculation over what Messi’s decision would be, it, therefore, came as no surprise when coach Scaloni announced his squads for the international windows of September and October without the name of the country’s record goalscorer.
Even though he hasn’t come out to publicly announce his retirement, with the national association saying the door was still open for him, it would be in the interest of all parties for Messi’s decision to be final. Here are five ways in which Messi's absence might benefit Argentina.
#5 There would be less pressure on the national team
Messi’s status as one of the greatest of all time is unquestionable. The little maestro has shown the uncanny ability to almost single-handedly decide the outcome of matches on his own, either by scoring goals or through creating due to his premier playmaking abilities.
Argentina, as stated earlier, is also one of the superpowers of world football, and their heritage, as well as the crop of players always available to them, put the country under pressure to win every tournament they contested in.
This pressure, however, hit new heights with the drought the country is experiencing, as well as the emergence of the Lionel Messi. The longer the drought went on and the better Messi became only served to increase the pressure on the national team to deliver.
The fans became almost obsessive with their desire to see ‘Maradona’s successor’ lead them to World glory much like his predecessor, and every failure at a major tournament only increased the pressure heading into the next for Messi and his teammates to deliver.
As seen throughout history, football teams under pressure to deliver, rarely live up to expectations, and this was evident in the Argentine team at the last World Cup, where the anxiety could be seen on the faces of the players particularly Messi, and this led to an immense fear on the part of the players in discharging of their duties.
Messi’s departure from the national team would reduce expectations considerably, and in the absence of the weight of expectations, a talented crop of players could finally fulfil their potential and deliver on the international stage.