Will Messi play at World Cup 2026? Valdano claims Argentina captain is aiming to achieve 'impossible' dream
- Global crown secured at Qatar 2022
- All-time great intends to play on
- Could grace sixth World Cup finals
WHAT HAPPENED? There had been suggestions ahead of the 2022 finals in Qatar that said tournament would be Messi’s last, but the 35-year-old inspired his nation to global glory in the Middle East and he is not ready to head into international retirement just yet. Former Albiceleste star Valdano claims a record-setting adventure could extend through to the defence of a prestigious crown in 2026, with the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner having vowed to prolong his career if an elusive prize was secured.
WHAT THEY SAID: Valdano has told Cadena Cope of Messi: “When I interviewed him before the World Cup, off camera he told me that he was going to play in his fifth World Cup and that no footballer had played six; he told me that it was impossible, and he told me 'if I'm a World Champion I'll keep my shirt on until the next World Cup'. We will see if Messi is capable. Football has shown that it is practically impossible to play in six World Cups.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has left the door open for Messi – who has 172 caps and 98 goals for Argentina to his name – to remain part of the squad through to an event that is set to be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico, saying: “We need to save him for the next World Cup – 2026. If he wants to keep playing, he will be with us. He is more than entitled to decide what he wants to do with his career now.”
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WHAT NEXT? Messi, who made his international debut in August 2005, is considered to have ended football’s GOAT debate with his exploits at the 2022 World Cup – with the all-time great also walking away with a history-making second Golden Ball.