Diego Maradona makes plea to Lionel Messi not to retire

Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts
Image: Lionel Messi missed his penalty as Argentina lose to Chile

Argentina legend Diego Maradona and the country's President Mauricio Macri have urged Lionel Messi not to quit the national team.

The Barcelona superstar left the field in tears after missing a spot-kick in the Copa America Centenario final shoot-out against Chile on Sunday.

He promptly announced his retirement from football.

Maradona told La Nacion newspaper: "He has to stay because he still has playing days ahead of him.

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Just two days after Lionel Messi said he'd never play for his country again, a statue of him has been unveiled in Buenos Aires.

"He will go to Russia [2018 World Cup] in form to be world champion."

Messi is widely rated as the best player in the world, but Sunday's loss was his fourth defeat in an international final for Argentina.

L'amarezza di Leo Messi per aver perso nuovamente la Copa America ( LaPresse)
Image: Messi ended his international career after the defeat

After an outpouring of disappointment by fans online, Macri joined the calls for the 29-year-old to stay with Argentina.

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"He called him and told him how proud he feels of the national team's performance and asked him not to listen to the criticism," a spokesman for Macri said.

Diego Maradona at Soccerex Asian Forum
Image: Diego Maradona says Messi should play at the 2018 World Cup

And the President tweeted: "More than ever I feel great pride for our team. I hope we can continue to have the joy of seeing the world's best player for many years."

The 1986 World Cup winner Maradona, 55, blamed Argentina's recent lack of trophies on the country's football association (AFA).

Argentina's Lionel Messi sits on the ground in dejection after being defeated by Chile in the penalty shoot-out of the Copa America Centenario final in Eas
Image: Messi sits on the ground in dejection after being defeated by Chile

He accused it of not supporting Messi and letting him take the blame for Sunday's defeat.

"Those who are saying he should quit are doing it so that we won't see what a disaster Argentine football has become," Maradona said.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 26:  Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina reacts after he missed a penalty kick against Chile during the Copa America Centenario Champi
Image: Messi has been begged by Maradona to continue playing for Argentina

After Sunday's final, Messi's usual composure gave way to tears of frustration.

"I've done all I can, I've been in four finals and it hurts not to be a champion," Messi said. "It's a hard moment for me and the team, and it's difficult to say, but it's over with the Argentina team."

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