An open letter to Lionel Messi from an Argentina fan
Lionel Messi's shock retirement certainly has left the international arena with a huge void to fill.
Commissaries on yet another excruciating final defeat in a major tournament. It is really gruelling to endure such losses in quick succession, especially when the hopes of an entire nation rest on your shoulders. I'm no expert to advice you on what you should do and what you shouldn't. I'm writing this letter only in my puny capacity as a fan. A fan of this beautiful game, which you have mastered more than anyone who has walked on the face of this planet.
There was a sense of optimism brewing amongst the Argentine faithful that tonight will be the night which will heal over 23 years of heartbreak. There was no undermining the fact that a monumental task in the form of defending champions awaited you as the final hurdle. And as it was, the result was disappointing, to say the least, but it wasn't the most shocking news which I was going hear in the day.
The news of your abject retirement from international football was not only saddening but heart wrenching, to an extent. The most gifted footballer of all time was hanging his boots. In all honesty, your retirement isn't the part which shook the life out of me. Rather, it was the manner and the circumstances in which you chose to bid adieu.
Lionel Messi, the symbol of the beautiful game, was at last crudely slayed. And here pop a few questions in my mind, is this the best Leo can do? Has he exhausted his immeasurable potential? The guy who played God-esque football was truly and squarely conquerable.
And here I am sitting baffled and flabbergasted in front of my TV, wondering what broke this feisty bloke bred in Barcelona to such an extent. There are winners and above them are champions. There is a fine line which makes the latter immortal. I always thought of you as a champion for the sheer hardships you've endured to scale all these glorious peaks. Alas! Today that notion of mine is crumbling to pieces.
The sole reason for this raging storm is your statement after the match. "This is the end". Yes, this is the end. Not only yours but a generation of Argentine footballers. Their messiah, their leader has been defeated. And there is no way to save a doomed ship which is led by a guillotined captain.
With this decision, you may want to pave way for a new generation who can do better. But if one of the best players of all-time can't do it, then who possibly can? And this is no hypothesis, the news of your teammates' imminent retirement for La Albiceleste is a testament to this. Today, it wasn't the end of your international career but it signalled the demise of perhaps, the most gifted group of Argentine footballers in over quarter of a century.
There is a raging debate which has plagued every international footballer. The great old club vs country strife. The ghosts of scepticism in Buenos Aires have always loomed over your radiant persona. You were considered as an 'outsider' in Argentina largely due to your love and unconditional loyalty towards La Blaugrana. But you, time after time, not only proved them wrong but also made them eat their words. Yet, all this seems futile as these pseudo-detractors stand vindicated.
Speaking of club football, has your unparalleled success in Catalonia killed your appetite for glory? The look on your face after the final whistle was of a man who is out of his depth. A dead man walking with no zeal to succeed whatsoever. The man in New Jersey wasn't the Messi we all know. This wasn't a man who was beaten but obliterated to his very core.
Is the chaos in the football administration a catalyst in this apocalyptic decision. All this paranoia off the field has made your retirement even more gruesome for Argentinian football. Argentina may surely not deserve you at the moment but you're the one it desperately needs to salvage itself from this era of pandemonium.
International glory or not, your status as one of the all-time greats will never be under any threat. But your unceremonious exit from the international arena will always be your Achilles Heel.