Argentina took a bitter blow in losing their second straight Copa América final to Chile on penalties, a blow that was quickly made worse by Lionel Messi shockingly announcing that he intends to retire from international competition. Things stand to get even worse for the Argentine Football Association that runs the national team, as seven other major stars have reportedly threatened to quit the national team as well.
Rumors of Sergio Aguero, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega and Lucas Biglia all retiring from the Argentina National Team.— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) June 27, 2016
Other reports and rumors add Javier Mascherano and Gonzalo Higuaín to that list as well, making the total of major players leaving the Argentina national team eight including Messi. Six of those players -- Messi, Mascherano, Higuaín, Di María, Banega and Biglia -- started the Copa América final, and Agüero saw significant minutes off the bench. Lavezzi likely would have played a role as well, but he broke his arm playing against the United States in the Copa semifinal.
Suffice to say, it would be a huge blow for Argentina's competitive chances in the near future if all eight of these players really do quit the team -- though whether or not they really do is up for debate. There is a chance, a very good one in fact, of this being a coordinated effort by major stars to try to wake up the AFA and try to get them moving in the right direction again.
The AFA in its current state is an utter mess -- they haven't had a president since 2014 following the death of Julio Humberto Grondona, and the process to replace him has been troublesome at best. An election in 2015 to try to name an official successor had to be thrown out when anti-corruption reformist Marcelo Tinelli and then-interim president Luis Segura evenly spit 76 registered votes, despite there only being 75 registered voting presidents of Argentine clubs.
FIFA recently stripped Segura of his interim president title amid financial and legal woes that forced them to place the AFA under direct administration until the nation's footballing body can get stabilized and ordered again. The long-standing chaos of Argentine football has been a constant drain on the national side, with significant weight and pressure placed on every match as an effort to lift the country as a whole. Despite that, though, the AFA's management of the team has been frequently criticized, with Messi's recent Instagram blast aimed at them over scheduling woes for their travel to New Jersey for the final being only the latest example of player unrest over how the team is handled.
With players feeling unsupported and major losses mounting, it's no shock that these seven players -- most of whom represent the core of the squad's best talent -- would threaten to quit alongside Messi in an effort to force things to improve. It remains to be seen if things can be improved quickly enough to get these players to step back from their current position of leaving the team. Who winds up being part of their World Cup qualifying squad for Argentina's match on Sept. 1 against Uruguay will be very telling for that -- don't be surprised if several of the players currently believed to be leaving the team are playing that day.