It's almost been a whole two months since Chile became back to back Copa América champions. Almost two months since the shock "retirement" of Lionel Messi.
Let's be realistic here, losing a final is enough to bring a lot of people to tears. Whether it's local football with your mates, or the biggest international stage, it absolutely sucks to lose a final. Argentina has lost 4 major international finals in the last 10 years.
It's not easy losing a final by any means. But for Messi to have retired right after Copa América Centenario is not professional. At all. Granted, he was upset. But so was the coaching staff, so were the other players, and so was Argentina.
Earlier this week, he announced his return to international football after having a chat with the new manager Edgardo Bauza. There's my issue with all of this.
After merely having a chat, he's agreed to play for Argentina again. There's no doubting that he adds a completely different dynamic to any team that he plays on. But when it comes to playing for your own nation, you cannot just pick and choose when you feel like playing on behalf of a hopeful nation.
Messi disrespected his teammates with his immediate retirement after Copa America Centenario loss. You don't desert your teammates in moments of grief, especially not as a captain. What kind of example does that set for your younger teammates, or even the next generation of budding superstars? In your lowest moment, you give up?
No. You console each other, stick together, work harder. Even after a devastating cup final loss. Even after 4 cup final losses. "You've given it your all, but it hurts not to be a champion."
Honestly, so what? I know it hurts not being a champion but you're not the only one on the team, Leo. Very few footballers are gifted with the privilege of playing for their country, even less get to play at a major tournament, and even fewer than that earn the honour of becoming a champion.
I can't believe I'm bring him into this, but I'll use his greatest rival as an example. Cristiano Ronaldo made his senior debut for Portugal in 2003, and he's just won his first international trophy 13 years later at Euro 2016. He had lost his first major final in his home country against Greece, arguably the biggest outsiders of Euro 2004. Yet Ronaldo soldiered on through each unsuccessful World Cup and European Championship campaign before finally winning one at 31 years old, having only played 25 minutes in that game.
Messi is 29, has shown no signs of slowing down in terms of skills or physicality, and could potentially play the next two World Cups and another Copa América. Provided he doesn't throw another tantrum after losing again.
I know for a fact that some kids out there would do anything to represent their nation at least once in their lifetime. For Messi, he should consider himself blessed to represent a great country with rich a history of some incredible athletes. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.
You don't choose when to play for your nation. Your nation chooses you.
Make them PROUD, win, draw or lose.