A year removed from an iconic 2022 FIFA World Cup triumph capping his glittering career, Argentine football legend Lionel Messi suggested he may pursue defending that long-awaited global glory at 2026’s tournament edition in North America when asked about playing prospects.
However, while refusing to shut down potential participation come his 39th birthday, Messi stressed that realistically expecting inclusion in 2026 remains extremely doubtful given the inevitable physical declines from advancing age. Far more immediate focus fixates on fortifying regional supremacy at next year’s Copa America showcase that Argentinian arch-rival Brazil hosts as Messi eyes cementing a permanent legacy.
Although Messi endured recent club struggles establishing rhythm since shockingly exiting Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, his phenomenal consistency and leadership propelling Argentina sparked fear in global opponents. From ending arch-nemesis Brazil’s Copa stranglehold in 2021 to realizing every footballer’s ultimate dream of lifting the 2022 World Cup trophy, Messi’s brilliance endures, securing more elusive accolades.
This success saw the diminutive maestro clinch a record eighth Ballon d’Or selection in 2023, reaffirming his enduring world-class pedigree. Now the bigger question looms: whether this form sustains through his late 30s, potentially chasing the first repeat World Cup since 1962.
However, Messi himself casts skepticism about competing physically in 2026. By then, he will have shifted to playing for David Beckham‘s nascent Inter Miami MLS franchise while crossing 40, typically cannibalizing any remaining speed or fitness from most professional footballers.
Additionally, critics point to recent stints at cash-rich but uncompetitive Paris Saint-Germain, distorting true assessments against elite European rivals of Messi’s capabilities by that stage. The reduced physical and technical rigors of Ligue 1 football inevitably impact the sharpness required to thrive in packed, intense World Cups. Hence, the star unsurprisingly talks down chances realistically.
Copa America Title Defense Takes Priority Before Potential World Cup Swansong Of more immediate appetite comes defending Copa America glory on regional arch-rival Brazil’s home soil in 2024. Given the history of ferocious footballing skirmishes and rivalry between the South American giants, Messi understands the enormous opportunity knocking there first.
Winning continental bragging rights deep into his late 30s would pose dazzling career bookends and let Argentina develop future successors. If his body somehow endures beyond that gauntlet unscathed, potentially tempting one last global curtain call, then Qatar’s magic gets traced once more. But a comprehensive legacy is already assured either way.
In summary, while wisely avoiding firm public commitments about participating in 2026’s World Cup, Lionel Messi‘s choice, leaving the slightest door ajar to cap an unparalleled career with an unprecedented second straight triumph, blurs lines between realistic probability and romanticized fantasy. But South American supporters still dream of the implausible, which holds immense appeal.