Diego Maradona has urged Lionel Messi to reverse his decision to retire from international football. The 29-year-old forward announced his plans to quit following Argentina's loss to Chile in the Copa America final – but the World Cup-winning legend has implored Messi to reconsider his plan.
Messi missed a crucial penalty during the shootout and announced his retirement shortly after the full-time whistle. However, Maradona – who coached Messi at the World Cup in 2010 – has implored the five-time Ballon d'Or winner to play on until the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"Messi has to stay in the national team. He will go to Russia in the form to be world champion," Maradona said of the Barcelona forward, according to La Nacion. "He has to rely more on boys who can help take the team forward and less on those who say they have to go.
"Those who are saying he should quit are doing it so that we won't see what a disaster Argentine football has become."
Meanwhile, Maradona – who also featured for Barcelona during his own playing career – blamed the Argentina Football Association for their recent failings, which has included losing back-to-back Copa America finals to Chile on penalties. "I am very sorry and very angry with what is happening to Argentine football," he added. "We hit bottom, we reached the bottom."
Messi has never claimed a winners' medal at senior international level. The Barcelona star has, however, won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, while he is also his country's highest-ever goalscorer, with 55 goals in 113 games.
But following his most recent setback, at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Messi insisted his international career was over. "I think that's it. The national team is over for me. I've made my decision," Messi was quoted as saying by Reuters after the defeat.