BUENOSAIRES (Reuters) – Lionel Messi says he constantly replays Argentina’s 2014 World Cup final defeat in his head but has vowed that a recent international sabbatical was a one-off and he has no plans to retire in the near future.
The Barcelona striker, speaking on an Argentine radio station on Friday, also surprised listeners by saying he misses Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo, who left rivals Real Madrid for Juventus last year.
“I miss Cristiano in Spain,” Messi told Radio C5N. “It was lovely having him here, even though it annoyed me seeing him win so many titles. It would be great if he was still here.”
Messi, a five-times Ballon d’Or winner, has begun 2019 in fine form with his Barcelona side running away with La Liga and through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
He also returned to international action last week in a lacklustre 3-1 defeat by Venezuela, a game that was his first for the national side since he took a break following the 2018 World Cup.
Argentina were knocked out of the tournament in the second round and Messi, who has still not scored a goal in the knockout stages of any of the four World Cups in which he has featured, was criticised by some fans.
The 31-year-old said going from Barcelona to Argentina was difficult and blamed their poor performances in Russia on a swift transition from promoting younger players to take up senior positions in the team.
“I think the generational change was very brusque,” Messi said. “It should have been done slower. You need to give the kids time and confidence. The change was a really big one.”
Messi said he was still tortured by the loss of the 2014 World Cup final to Germany in extra time and warned fans not to expect too much from Argentina at this year’s Copa America in Brazil.
“Do you know the number of times I’ve replayed the final and the chances we had? It would have been so different if we’d scored one of them,” he explained.
“Being realistic, a lot of work is needed to be a powerhouse. These kids have played very few matches for the national team. We need to be patient and I have no doubt that we are going to be strong.”
“I am going to stretch out my retirement as long as I can,” Messi said, adding that if he did return to Argentina it would be to play for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys.
“I would love to end my career at Newell’s but it’s not easy. Sincerely, I don’t know.”
(Reporting by Ramiro Scandolo and Andrew Downie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)