Lionel Messi addresses status for 2026 World Cup

    Although he finally led Argentina to the promised land the last time around, Lionel Messi may not be satisfied just yet.

    Speaking with reporters ahead of the Copa America tournament later this month, the soccer superstar was asked whether he will playing in the 2026 World Cup. Somewhat surprisingly, Messi left the door open to the possibility of doing so.

    “It depends on how I feel, how I am physically, and being realistic with myself,” he said, per leading soccer reporter Fabrizio Romano. “There’s still a lot of time left… in quotes, ‘a lot and a little,’ because it goes by quickly. But there is still some time, and I don’t know how I’ll be at that moment.

    “Age is also a reality that is there, even though it’s just a number,” added Messi. “The matches I will play now aren’t the same as those I played when I was in Europe competing every three days, either in the Champions League or in the league, whether in France or Spain. But it depends on how I feel and what I feel being alongside my teammates, and seeing if I am still up to the level or not… Let’s see.”

    Messi turns 37 later this month and will be 39 by the time the 2026 World Cup, which will be held jointly in the United States, Mexico and Canada, takes place. He has already competed in five World Cups and finally led his native Argentina to the trophy in 2022 (after an all-time classic of a finale versus France to boot). Messi did also notably say before the 2022 World Cup that he intended for it to be the last World Cup of his career.

    But the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner is still playing at a high individual level for Inter Miami of Major League Soccer (MLS), continuing to produce all kinds of magical moments in his second season with the team. As Messi hinted at with his above quote too, the MLS competition level is far lower than what he experienced in Europe, meaning that he is playing less often and with less intensity these days.

    Argentina should be in good hands no matter what Messi decides. Julian Alvarez (24), Enzo Fernandez (23) and Alejandro Garnacho (19) are among their exciting young players of the next generation who are ready to carry on the torch. But if Messi decides that he wants one last dance at the World Cup (without nearly as much pressure to win as he had experienced every single time before), the opportunity will be there for him.

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