Lionel Messi inspired Argentina to their first World Cup victory since 1986 in an enthralling final vs France; the 35-year-old wants to carry on playing for Argentina; "I enjoy being in the national team, the group, I want to continue living a few more games being world champion," he said
Monday 19 December 2022 14:20, UK
Argentina captain Lionel Messi will not retire from international football, saying he wants to continue playing as a world champion.
Messi scored twice for Argentina in Sunday's thrilling World Cup final over France as the game ended 3-3 after extra-time, before converting in the penalty shoot-out which his side won 4-2 to claim the biggest prize in football.
Despite being 35, Messi wants to carry on playing for his country beyond this World Cup putting to bed any doubts that he might retire.
"I will not retire," he said. "I want to continue playing as a World Cup champion.
"It's the most beautiful thing there is," Messi told TyC Sports. "Look what it is, it's beautiful, I wanted it a lot. God was going to give it to me, I had a feeling that it was this, we suffered a lot, but we got it.
"Obviously I wanted to close my career with this, I can't ask for anything anymore. Thank God he gave me everything. Closing almost my career like this, it's impressive.
"After this, what will there be? I was able to get the Copa América, World Cup… It came to me almost at the end. I love football, what I do. I enjoy being in the national team, the group, I want to continue living a few more games being world champion.
"I can't wait to be in Argentina to see how crazy that is going to be."
Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has told Messi that he can stay playing for Argentina as long as he wishes.
Scaloni, who was a team-mate of Messi's for Argentina, even suggested the possibility of Messi continuing until the next World Cup in 2026 when he would be 39.
"First of all, we need to save him a spot for the next World Cup in 2026 if he wants to keep playing. If he wants to keep playing, he'll be with us," said Scaloni, who became only the third manager to win the World Cup and Copa America.
"He's more than entitled to decide if he wants to keep playing for Argentina or not, and what he wants to do with his career. It's such a huge pleasure for us to coach him and his team-mates.
"Everything that he transmits to his team-mates is something unparallel, that I've never seen before. A player, a person who gives so much to his team-mates."
Messi will take the headlines, but France's Kylian Mbappe was arguably the best performer at the Lusail Stadium on Sunday night as his hat-trick pushed Argentina all the way.
Twice Mbappe inspired a France comeback to take the game to penalties by scoring the first World Cup final hat-trick since Geoff Hurst's for England in 1966.
France head coach Didier Deschamps felt that Mbappe's involvement would be remembered regardless of Les Bleus missing out on a successive World Cup trophy.
"Kylian has really left his mark on this final," Deschamps said. "But unfortunately he didn't leave it in the way he would have liked and that's why he was so disappointed at the end of the match like all of the players."
Deschamps was gutted after the game and said France "came back from the dead" against Argentina.
"Obviously we have some regrets about that first part of the match and then we go into extra-time, where we could have won it in the last minute," he said. "Unfortunately, it didn't go in and then it went to penalties.
"There were a number of reasons why we just weren't quite as good as we could have been, and we had a very strong opponent.
"We were perhaps lacking a little bit of energy. Some of our key players were lacking that energy.
"But, nonetheless, we had some young, more inexperienced players who came on and brought some freshness and quality and they managed to get us back into the match and keep the dream alive.
"But unfortunately at the end of the day we couldn't achieve that dream."
Brazil legend Pele congratulated Messi and Argentina on their World Cup victory and said the late Diego Maradona "is smiling now".
Maradona, who led Argentina to their last World Cup success in 1986, died in November 2020 at the age of 60 due to a cardiac arrest.
Pele also offered his sympathy to Mbappe after falling short in the final despite scoring a hat-trick on Sunday and praised Morocco for becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-final.
"Today, football continues to tell its story, as always, in an enthralling way, Messi winning his first World Cup, as his trajectory deserved," he posted on Instagram.
"My dear friend, Mbappe, scoring four goals in a final. What a gift it was to watch this spectacle to the future of our sport.
"And I couldn't fail to congratulate Morocco for the incredible campaign. It's great to see Africa shine.
"Congratulations Argentina! Certainly Diego (Maradona) is smiling now."