Messi Eyes Copa América and Possible 2026 World Cup Participation

As Lionel Messi sets his sights on the Copa América and possibly the 2026 World Cup, he reflects on his storied career, from international heartbreaks to World Cup glory, and his impactful transition to Major League Soccer with Inter Miami.

Lionel Messi

07/16/2023.- Argentinian player Lionel Messi holds the Inter Miami CF Jersey. EFE/EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH

Latin American Post Staff

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Leer en español: Messi apunta a la Copa América y a una posible participación en el Mundial 2026

Messi's Copa América Focus

Lionel Messi, the revered Argentine football maestro and eight-time Ballon d'Or recipient, has his sights firmly set on the Copa América in the United States next June. This focus comes despite not ruling out the possibility of participating in the 2026 World Cup. In a recent ESPN/Star+ documentary, "Champions, A Year Later," Messi revealed his ambitions and current state of mind.

"As long as I feel good and can continue to deliver, I'm going to [continue playing with Argentina]," Messi stated. His dedication remains unwavering, but he acknowledges the challenge of playing at the World Cup at 39, an age typically beyond the prime for most footballers.

Messi's journey with the Argentine national team has been emotional. It reached a crescendo in 2022 when he led Argentina to World Cup glory on his fifth attempt, securing the Golden Ball for being the tournament's best player and netting twice in the thrilling final against France. This triumph was a long-awaited vindication for Messi, who had previously endured a string of heartbreaks with Argentina, including losing three consecutive significant finals – the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 Copa América.

Monumental Achievement and Liberation

The 2022 World Cup victory was a monumental achievement, not just for Messi but for Argentine football, which had been yearning for international success since their last World Cup win in 1986 under the legendary Diego Maradona. Messi's victory cemented his status as one of the greatest players in the sport's history and allowed him to step out of Maradona's shadow, with whom he has often been compared.

However, Messi's journey didn't stop there. Post-World Cup, he moved significantly across the Atlantic to join Inter Miami in Major League Soccer (MLS), sparking American interest in soccer. His arrival at Inter Miami, an emerging force in the MLS, marked a new chapter in his illustrious career. Despite acknowledging the MLS as a "smaller league," Messi's impact was immediate and profound. Under his leadership, Inter Miami enjoyed a club-record 12-game unbeaten streak and clinched their first-ever trophy, the Leagues Cup.

Global Trend: European Stars in the MLS

This move to the MLS reflects a broader trend in football, where aging European stars seek new challenges in different leagues. Players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, and Zlatan Ibrahimović have previously taken similar paths, enhancing the global appeal and competitiveness of the MLS.

Messi's career trajectory offers a fascinating insight into the evolution of football over the past two decades. From his early days at Barcelona, where he emerged as a prodigious talent under the guidance of Ronaldinho, to his current role in the MLS, Messi has been a constant in an ever-changing football landscape. His style of play, combining sublime skill with unparalleled vision and goal-scoring ability, has redefined what is possible on the football field.

Copa América: A Continuing Legacy

Looking ahead, Messi's focus on the Copa América indicates his unwavering commitment to his national team. This tournament offers him another opportunity to add to his illustrious legacy and continue to inspire a generation of footballers and fans alike. However, Messi remains realistic about the future, understanding the physical demands of the sport and the uncertainties that come with it.

Also read: Leo Messi will have an Interactive Exhibit in Miami

In conclusion, Lionel Messi's journey from a young talent in Rosario, Argentina, to a global football icon is a testament to his skill, perseverance, and passion for the game. As he prepares for the next chapter of his career in the United States, his legacy continues to evolve, influencing not just the game of football but also the countless individuals who have watched, admired, and been inspired by his extraordinary journey.

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