Argentine football legend Diego Maradona and the country’s President Mauricio Macri urged Lionel Messi on Monday not to leave the national team despite his vow to quit after a humiliating defeat.
The Barcelona superstar left the field in tears after missing a spot-kick in the Copa America Centenario final shootout against Chile the other day.
He promptly told reporters he was quitting, throwing Argentine football into turmoil ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
“He has to stay because he still has playing days ahead of him,” Maradona was quoted as saying by La Nacion newspaper online. “He will go to Russia in form to be world champion.”
Messi, 29, is widely rated as the best player in the world, but Sunday’s loss was his fourth defeat in an international final for Argentina.
After an outpouring of disappointment by fans online, Argentinian President Macri joined the calls for the Barcelona superstar to stay with Argentina.
Macri on Twitter said that “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.”
“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 the president told the foreign agencies by telephone.