Lionel Messi Prioritizes Copa America Title Defence Over Long-term Argentina Future

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (AP) is not ruling out playing at the 2026 World Cup and is enjoying his best time with Argentina. The 36-year-old said earlier this year that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar would likely be his last. “As long as I feel good and I can continue to deliver, I’m going to do it (continue playing with Argentina). All I’m thinking about today is getting to the Copa America and being able to play in it,” Messi told ESPN. “Then time will tell whether I’ll be at the World Cup or not. It seemed that after the 2022 World Cup I was retiring, now I want to be with the team more than ever. We are experiencing a special moment, I want to enjoy it to the fullest, without thinking two or three years ahead, which in football is a lot.” Messi has bittersweet memories of the last time the Copa America was held on American soil in the 2016 centenary edition, where Argentina reached the final but lost on penalties to Chile. It was the third consecutive final Argentina had lost with Messi as captain, after the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa, before he led the country to claim the continental title in 2021. The South Americans then went on to win the 2022 Finalissima against Italy before beating France on penalties in the World Cup final last year. “Maybe we’ll do well in the Copa America and everything will work out for me to continue. Maybe not. It’s hard,” Messi added. “Being world champion changed me in the peace of mind knowing that, in my job, I could achieve everything.” The Copa America will feature six guest teams from the CONCACAF region, including the US and Mexico. Argentina will discover their opponents when the draw is made on Dec. 7.