Where to now for Argentina? - by Jesse Nagel

Lionel Messi has called it quits for Argentina at the age of 29, following defeats in four major finals.
Lionel Messi has called it quits for Argentina at the age of 29, following defeats in four major finals.
At the age of 29, Argentina were forced to bid farewell to their best and arguably greatest player that ever lived. After suffering defeats in four major finals for his country, Lionel Messi called it quits for La Albiceleste. As much as football lovers would respect any decision that the left-footed magician would make, I’m forced to question the fact that he may have ‘chickened out’ a bit. But exactly how does that affect the rest of the Argentinian squad?

After the news that Messi retired, fellow superstars Sergio Aguero and Javier Mascherano have also contemplated hanging up their size 8’s for Argentina. Has Messi caused an exodus from International football? Why else would Austria captain Christian Fuchs just decide to retire as well at the age of 30? But with that being said, where to now for the little Argentine wizard?

As class of a player as Messi was, and still is, life has to move on. At the age of 29, Albiceleste fans could have expected at least four more years at international level from Messi – if not more. Domestic and international years are completely different, though. In the possible four years that he could have played, a major role for Argentina in the 2018 World Cup and a few more Copa America’s would have been possible. So without Messi, do Argentina have any hope of winning a major tournament in the coming years?

The answer is… OF COURSE THEY HAVE A CHANCE!

Whether or not Aguero decides to do things the ‘Messi-way’ and retire from international football remains to be seen. But if he had to stay on, Argentina would have a plethora of options in attack. They’ll still have the likes of Napoli frontman Gonzalo Higuain, who banged in an impressive 36 goals in the Italian Serie A, setting a new league record in Italy last season. Another player who has been on the rise is Erik Lamela. Am I saying that he is on the same level as Messi? Heck no! But after a superb season with Tottenham Hotspur, helping them to a top three finish in the English Premier League, you cannot ignore the fact that we could see another left-footed trickster in the making.

Another name worthy of a mention is Paulo Dybala. The young striker was one of Juventus’ top players in the 2015/16 Serie A season, scoring 19 goals and providing nine assists in a campaign that saw the club win a fifth consecutive Scudetto. Dybala, combined in attack with Angel Di Maria would also be a delight to watch for all Albiceleste fans.

And lastly, Atletico Madrid forward Angel Correa has shown what he is capable of in the Spanish La Liga as well as in the UEFA Champions League, guiding Atleti to the final of the tournament. It’s only a matter of time until he is given the chance to fulfil his potential and prove to be another Argentine legend in the making. So to answer all questions over Messi’s Argentina retirement, Albiceleste will be quite fine. Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, Lamela, Dybala and Correa all have what it takes to do it as a team and fill the void left by Messi.

All that said, the football world has to pay tribute to the genius, maestro, wizard, that is Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest footballer ever. It is with a heavy heart that international football says goodbye to the Argentine ace who deserved more than just an Olympic winner’s medal with his national team.