Messi open to 2026 World Cup participation

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Despite initially indicating that the 2022 World Cup would mark the conclusion of his international career, Lionel Messi, who recently clinched his eighth Ballon d’Or, is now contemplating a potential appearance in the 2026 tournament.

Messi, having triumphed with Argentina in the World Cup final against France in Doha almost a year ago, had initially hinted that Qatar would be his final World Cup, given his age and the subsequent tournament being hosted by the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

However, the 36-year-old, currently playing for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami, has reevaluated this stance. In an interview with Argentina’s Star+, Messi stated, “I’m not thinking about the World Cup, and I’m not saying 100 percent that I won’t be there because anything can happen.”

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Despite recognizing the challenges associated with his age, he remains open to the possibility. Messi emphasized his focus on the upcoming Copa America, scheduled to be held in the United States in June.

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The Argentina captain acknowledged the difficulty of a sixth consecutive World Cup appearance but expressed a pragmatic outlook: “Maybe we’ll do well at the Copa America, and everything will work out for us to continue. Maybe not. Realistically it’s difficult.” Messi emphasized being attuned to his physical condition and performance, stating, “As long as I feel I’m well and can continue to contribute, I’m going to do it.” 

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Reflecting on his earlier retirement announcement post-World Cup, Messi explained, “I’m going to arrive at an age that, normally, doesn’t allow me to play in the World Cup. I said I don’t think I’m going to be there. It looked like after the World Cup I was retiring, and it was the opposite. Now I want to be there more than ever.”

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In summary, Messi, despite the challenges posed by age and a shift to a less competitive league, remains open to the possibility of participating in the 2026 World Cup, with his immediate focus set on the Copa America. The football icon’s determination to contribute and compete continues to drive his international ambitions.

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