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It's Not Me, It's You: Lionel Messi isn't the problem, Argentina just aren't Barcelona

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Lionel Messi is as close to a footballing god as one could get in this day and age. Let’s just get that out of the way to begin with.

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Following yet another heartbreaking finale to a major national team tournament, Lionel Messi has decided to retire from the Argentine national team duty. It’s a decision that has shocked many and one that will surely greatly hamper the chances of tangible success for years to come. Clearly it doesn’t help that the likes of Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero have also followed suit, but it’s Messi’s choice that is quite rightly the subject of most column inches.

Lack of Success

Over the course of 12 seasons in the Barcelona first team set-up Lionel Messi has pretty much broke every record in the book. An abridged version of his very many accolades, stats and achievements reads as follows.

  • 453 goals in 531 appearances
  • Eight La Liga titles
  • Four Champions League triumphs
  • Five Ballon d’Or awards
  • Three times La Liga top-scorer
  • 312 La Liga goals (Tournament record)
  • 127 La Liga assists (Tournament record)

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So basically Messi has pretty much re-written history when it comes to club football but undeniably he hasn’t come close to aiding Argentina to major tournament success over the course of his time in the senior squad set-up. There is of course one pretty damn obvious reason for this and it’s as follows.

Argentina are not Barcelona.

There. I said it.

Messi Argentina 1

Argentina’s inability to make waves in World Cup and Copa American tournaments is not down to a failure on Messi’s part, it’s chiefly down to the team, squad, as a whole simply not being good enough, or more accurately, a collective ‘choking’ occurring at the crucial moments in recent years.

Failure at national team level?

Hilariously there are those who would deem Lionel Messi, at a personal level, as being a failure when decked out in national team colours. This is about as wide of the mark as is humanly possible.

Indeed earlier this month Lionel Messi became the leading goal-scorer in Argentine national team history, overcoming Gabriel Batistuta, and the 29-year-old has played a key role in recent runs to 2014 World Cup final and then the 2015 & 2016 Copa America finals.

As a knee-jerk reaction one can understand why Messi would want to call it quits but the problem with being such a high-profile figure is that backing away from such statements is nigh on impossible. The Nou Camp hero would no doubt be attacked vehemently if he attempted to back-track on this decision and it’s highly unlikely he will feature.

Lionel Messi Chile

Idiotic press reaction

Since day one there has been, for whatever bizarre reason, a fairly large portion of the Argentine press who have derided Messi and soon after he’d made his decision to quit the knives were out.

“Messi is a Spaniard,” Argentinian football journalist Gabriel Anello remarked.

“Let him stay in Spain. Us Argentines don’t want him and don’t need him.” he added.

This is by no means an isolated example. There are even some supporters of the Argentine national team who have genuine grievances against Messi, and again, this is all very hard to fathom.

There is no evidence that supports any theory that Messi doesn’t give anything less than 100% when he his out on international duty and therefore when he receives short shrift it’s hardly surprising that he doesn’t take it well.

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His decision to retire is therefore not solely down to the instant reaction to another final defeat. He may well feel that if he’s not wanted then he may as well stick to club football, after all he enjoys nothing by absolute devotion from a Barcelona fan-base that revere him like a deity.

What now?

Amid reports that Aguero, Mascherano, as well as Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain and Lucas Biglia, are also set to follow Messi’s example, the Argentine national team set-up have a succession of big holes to fill.

Lionel Messi Barcelona 201516

Argentina have now gone some 23 years since a Copa American title and 30 years since their last World Cup triumph and frankly without Messi there is little chance La Albiceleste will reverse that trend anytime soon.

Meanwhile Barcelona will continue to rule the roost in Spain and  Messi will spread fear among defensive lines in Champions League clashes across the continent.

Get my point….

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