The same story has been told a thousand times. Lionel Messi, the greatest player of his generation, has never won a major trophy for Argentina. He's played in two straight finals for his country, but lost the World Cup final in extra time and last year's Copa America final on penalties. Argentina made a third straight final at the 2016 Copa America Centenario, and once again, it went to penalties against Chile.
It's never been fair to blame Messi for Argentina's lack of titles and it still isn't. But for the first time, he's very directly contributed to their failure to win in a final. This was the first time in Messi's career that he's ever missed in a penalty shootout, and he missed badly. Argentina never led in the shootout, which Chile won 4-2.
Right or wrong, this becomes part of the story of Messi. Before the final, Argentina legend Diego Maradona said that Argentina shouldn't bother coming home if they fail to win the final, and many fans believe that Messi cannot be considered as great as Maradona until he wins a major honor with his country like Maradona did in the 1986 World Cup.
Argentina's last major title win came in the 1993 Copa America, which Maradona actually didn't play in -- he was struggling to regain form and fitness after a 15-month ban for failing multiple drug tests. Maradona also scored the winning goal in the semifinal of the World Cup that he won with his hand. This isn't to disparage Maradona, but to make the point that the margins are so thin when it comes to international success. It would be silly to criticize Messi for not living up to Maradona's legacy -- and especially silly for Maradona himself to do it.
But no one cares about what's fair. This will be cemented as part of Messi's legacy. He lost three straight finals. He did not score or assist in any of them. And he missed in the penalty shootout of the third one. Whether or not it prevents him from being considered the greatest player of all time is a debate that will never be settled unless Messi stars in a World Cup win.
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