Speaking ahead of the 2022 World Cup final, Lionel Messi claimed that this would be his final match in the tournament, ever. He broke the record for the most appearances in the competition with 26, and also scored two goals before eventually lifting the trophy.
“I am proud to be able to finish my World Cup journey playing this final. What I’m experiencing is exciting. Surely Sunday will be my last game in a World Cup. It will be many years before the next one and I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. So I hope I can finish in the best way,” he said.
While he claimed that it was his last World Cup, Leo confirmed that he will not be retiring from the national team anytime soon. And that he wanted to “play as a world champion”.
However, in an interesting turn of events, it seems we might witness Messi playing in the 2026 World Cup. Journalist Jorge Valdano has claimed that he spoke to the GOAT ‘behind the scenes’, getting his confirmation on one condition – that has since been fulfilled.
“The last time I interviewed Leo Messi, off camera, he told me ‘If I win this year’s World Cup, I will wear the Argentina shirt until the 2026 World Cup’,” Valdano has claimed on COPE.
This comes on the back of Argentine national team’s manager Lionel Scaloni, who confirmed that Messi will have a place and the #10 jersey in the roster for the next World Cup if he wants to be included.
“For starters… the least we can do is to keep a shirt for him ready for the 2026 World Cup if he wants to play. He earned that right. There’s 26 places, if he wants to,” Scaloni said (h/t Mundo Albiceleste).
Leo’s international teammates are evidently very defensive about him, as well, with Lisandro Martinez straight-up refusing to let him leave after the 2022 edition of the competition.
“How can this be Leo Messi‘s last World Cup? No, no he’s crazy…we will NOT let him leave,” the Manchester United defender exclaimed on ESPN (h/t Luis Omar Tapia).
For the record, Messi will be 39 by the time the next World Cup kicks off – in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.