World Cup winner Lionel Messi is not ready to call time on his glittering international career just yet.
The 35-year-old led from the front with two goals in a thrilling 3-3 extra-time draw with France in Qatar on Sunday and then scored in the penalty shoot-out as Argentina lifted the trophy for the third time, but the first for him.
Messi had indicated during the build-up to the final that the game would be his last on the world stage, but speaking afterwards he told Argentinian TV station TyC Sports: “Obviously I wanted to cap my career with this and I can’t ask for anything more.
Pueden venir cuantos quieran que serán tratados bien. Los que estén en el camino, ¡bienvenidos a 🚈 la #Scaloneta! 🎶 pic.twitter.com/z8qfR4K4VZAdvertisement
— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) December 18, 2022
“What will happen after this? I’ve managed to win the Copa America and the World Cup almost at the end…
“I love football, it’s what I do. I enjoy being in the national team and want to continue by experiencing a few more games as a world champion.”
Whether or not “a few more games” will constitute a title defence in four years’ time remains to be seen, but head coach Lionel Scaloni is hoping so.
Speaking at his post-match press conference, Scaloni said: “First of all, we need to save him a spot for the next World Cup in 2026. If he wants to keep playing, he’ll be with us.”
Scaloni saw his side pegged back twice, firstly as a result of Kylian Mbappe’s quick-fire double after Messi’s penalty and Angel Di Maria’s strike had put them in control, and then courtesy of Mbappe’s third – just the second hat-trick in the final – following another Messi goal, before they eventually prevailed 4-2 on penalties.
He said: “The match was completely insane. It wasn’t in my plans. I didn’t envisage to be World Cup winners, but now we are and the most important thing is how we achieved this.”
Scaloni’s emotions were in stark contrast to those of opposite number Didier Deschamps.
Deschamps, who guided his side to glory in Russia in 2018, said: “Those first 70 minutes or so, we were playing a very aggressive and dynamic opponent and we just weren’t up to the same level for a number of reasons.
We're proud of you 💙#ARGFRA | #FiersdetreBleus pic.twitter.com/JS7aBZ9Gfx
— French Team ⭐⭐ (@FrenchTeam) December 18, 2022
“But, nevertheless, we managed to come back from the dead and we made a magnificent comeback from what was a very difficult situation.
“I really must congratulate Argentina because they showed great quality, great aggression, experience and some very cunning football out there.”