What do you say to Lionel Messi when he loses yet another final and announces his retirement from internationals?
Are his fans to cry, “Come back, Messi, we’ll always love you, come what may”?
Or to join his plaintive chorus to ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina’.
“Don’t cry for me Argentina
The truth is I never left you
All through my wild days
My mad existence
I kept my promise
Don’t keep your distance.”
Truth be told, my first reaction to Messi’s missed penalty was the demoralising effect it would have on his teammates. To see their skipper miss his shot by a mile could only create more flutters and nerves in their midst.
And sure enough, his teammates missed another and that was the end of Argentina’s Copa America Centenario dreams.
That Messi would take this loss to heart and view it as a personal failure could only be foreseen in hindsight.
Will Messi be back?
The magician with the ball does know that soccer is a team game and that he’s not expected to shoulder the blame for his team’s inadequacies. And it’s not as though there isn’t a blueprint available on how to nullify the Messi threat personified by an Argentinean side. Germany have done it before and Chile did it to them twice.
Messi is hardly the first high-profile player to miss a crucial penalty. His Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo missed one in this year’s Euro. Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini are on that unfortunate list too.
Time is a great healer and it’s possible that the lure of another World Cup could draw the mercurial forward back.
Yes, it’s possible, and we certainly hope to see him back in national colours.
Until then, we’ll continue to enjoy his exploits with Neymar and Luis Suarez for Barca.