No Leo, you can’t quit now, not this way: An open letter to Lionel Messi

  • Sumil Sudhakaran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2016 14:17 IST
Argentina skipper Lionel Messi missed a penalty in the shootouts. After his side lost to Chile in the Copa America final, Messi decided to call it a day on his international career. (AP)

No Leo, you can’t quit, not this way at least, for the world doesn’t need another Riquelme. 

Yes, that man, Juan Roman Riquelme, with whom you shared the failure of the 2007 Copa America — a 0-3 loss to Brazil in the final. A Brazil fan, I am under no obligation to admire Riquelme, but I still do, to my own detriment, enduring the pain of justifying his shortcomings in the jersey that you now do not want to wear.

Only justifying your beloved’s transgressions, even when you know she never loved you back, could be more painful. 

The faceless and the nameless have called him a failure, a club hero who never rose to the occasion, a hype; but I have beaten the drum for him, for Riquelme was a magician. 

When they could not see beyond his failure to win a World Cup or Copa for Argentina, I reminisced those passes Riquelme sprayed over the pitch, a work of art, a gentle swish of the brush on a canvas. When they could not fathom it, I reminded them of his days in Boca Juniors, those Spanish weekends in Villarreal, and yes, that goal from a direct corner kick, but ultimately I failed, for they closed the argument by pointing their wretched fingers at the nothingness he won for Argentina. No dear, that Olympics medal did not matter to them, and will not matter to your detractors as well. 

Leo, you have seen what ultimately was the defining moment in Riquelme’s career, and you know how the greatest magician you have seen up close is remembered as — a failure. You do not want to endure that. 

Read | I’ve done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion: Messi on retirement

Sure, you have won everything in the colours of Barcelona, and as a Barca fan, I am more than glad for that. But those wretched fingers will ultimately point to the same nothingness that weigh you down at this moment. 

You are better than that, better than anyone playing the game at this moment. They won’t see the irony, and the ultimate fallacy, in calling you a failure. Just take a few days off, then be back up, and come back for the World Cup Qualifiers, and then the Finals. 

And at last, Leo, as you may have observed, I never mentioned the other Argentine who you are often bracketed with, I know it can be an albatross around the neck. For that little mercy at least, get the hell back on the pitch. 


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Chile win Copa America on penalties, deny Messi’s Argentina again

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