Lionel Messi will not play at the 2026 World Cup, the Argentine megastar has confirmed.
Messi was the star of the 2022 event when he claimed his first winner’s medal in what was his fifth appearance at the finals. He scored seven times in seven games during the tournament, becoming the first player since 1986 to score in every round, and was the undoubted star of the final against France.
Speculation had been rife across the entire tournament that it would be his last appearance, but after the final, he appeared to leave the door open to playing again. Manager Lionel Scaloni was also keen to keep options open.
“We need to save him a spot for the [next] World Cup,” he told reporters. “If he wants to keep playing, he will be with us. He is more than entitled to decide if he wants to keep playing and what he wants to do with his career. It is such a huge pleasure to coach him. Everything he transmits to his teammates is something unparalleled that I have never seen before.”
Messi rules out 2026 World Cup
With the 2026 tournament taking place in locations across Canada, Mexico and the United States, where Messi will now play his club football with David Beckham’s new Inter Miami team, it seemed to be a perfect match-up for the player, his country and the commercial partners he already has and is likely to accrue over the next few years.
However, Messi himself has now poured cold water on the concept, telling the popular Chinese sports outlet Titan Sports: “I think not. [Qatar] was my last World Cup. I’ll see how things go, but as it is right now, no, I won’t go to the next World Cup.”
Four years is a long time though, especially in football, and Messi remains in good form for his country. He scored his fastest-ever goal for Argentina in June, when he found the net after 80 seconds during a comfortable 2-0 victory over Australia.
Messi will be pushing 40 by the time the next World Cup comes along and not many have played at such a high level at such an advanced age. However, if he can avoid injury, keep up his levels of fitness and stay sharp in the generally slower-paced, less challenging world of the MLS, he may put himself forward for selection.
Before then, he’s likely to star for Argentina in the 48th edition of the Copa America, which will also be held in the United States. It’s the second time the tournament has headed to the US, following the 2016 edition which was the first to travel outside of South America. The move was made to celebrate the tournament and CONMEBOL’s 100th anniversary.
Underlining Argentina’s current dominance of international football, La Albiceleste are current Copa America holders, having won the tournament in 2021. They claimed their record-equalling 15th title by beating Brazil 1-0 in the final, with Angel Di Maria scoring the crucial goal.