Lionel Messi hints at Argentina retirement following World Cup

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi has admitted that he could step down from international duties following the summer World Cup in Russia. The 30-year-old initially retired from international football following a second successive Copa America final defeat to Chile in 2016 but he thereafter changed his mind to guide the nation through a tough World Cup qualifying campaign.

Argentina faced a must-win game against Ecuador in the final round of the qualifiers and Messi duly delivered for theAlbiceleste with a hat-trick to send them to the World Cup. Since then, there has been plenty of talk of Messi announcing his international retirement following the World Cup and he has now admitted that it could be the case, should the nation fail to win the global tournament.

Speaking to Spanish outlet Sport, Messi said that he was disappointed for the lack of appreciation for Argentina’s run to recent finals and admits he could end his Albiceleste career based on the result in Russia, he said:"I don't know. It will depend how we do, how it ends. The fact we've lost three finals now has led to some complicated moments with the Argentine press due to the differences in seeing what it means to reach a final. It is not easy and [reaching three finals] has to be appreciated. It's true that winning them is important, but getting there is not easy."

The South American nation have been widely dependent on Messi to guide them in recent tournaments and they are likely to face a similar task in their World Cup group where they have a couple of tricky fixtures. Croatia and Nigeria will undoubtedly present them a challenge with their recent leaky defence whilst Iceland could land a surprise, if they are allowed freedom to express themselves. The World Cup newcomers landed a shocking 2-1 defeat on England during the 2016 European Championship in France.