Lionel Messi is retiring from Argentina's national soccer team. Correction: Lionel Messi says he's retiring from Argentina's national soccer team.
The loss to Chile in the Copa America final was painful for Messi, and for Argentina as a whole, which has lost in the final three straight times. Naturally, frustrations ran high. But just as people often announce they're done drinking while in the throes of a hangover, it might be a bit premature to put Messi's national team career in the rear-view mirror.
"For me, the national team is over," Messi said after the loss. "I've done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion."
Argentina's struggles are striking: During the past nine years, it has lost in four straight finals of major international tournaments. Messi has yet to lead the team to a single major tournament championship.
He's clearly frustrated with that drought, and takes the blame for those shortcomings. Maybe he really is done. But there's reason to think he'll put on the blue and white stripes again, and not just because time will numb the pain he feels right now.
First and foremost, there is Messi's age to consider. The soccer star is just 29. The next World Cup is just two years away. It's possible Messi could be a starter for Argentina in both the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
That's a ton to walk away from, and it doesn't include other major international tournaments, including the next Copa America. For all of his failures to this point, Messi still has many opportunities left. Given that a major win is the biggest hole in his legacy, it's unlikely he would sit idly by and not chase a victory.
There's also this: Argentina needs him. Messi may be criticized by those in his home country, derided for his decision to go play for F.C. Barcelona, and he may be blamed for yet another finals loss. But when the next tournament rolls around, his countrymen will be clamoring for their superstar striker to join the fold.
Fans can be insufferable when they're disgruntled. But like Messi, their negative emotions can fade over time. Once this latest Copa letdown is put in the past, fans will wake up and realize their success depends on having Messi in the fold.
It's possible Messi takes some time off. He could sit out the six World Cup qualifying matches scheduled for this fall, or only play in the most important matches to ensure Argentina maintains a qualifying spot. If he does sit out those matches, he might not appear in an international game until 2017 -- and assuming Argentina qualifies for the World Cup, that's not a bad thing.
Mentally, if not physically, Messi seems like he could use a break. But it would be a stunning turn if he walked away from the international game when he's still in his prime, and Argentina is still a world power. There's too much opportunity to ignore.