'Messi can play until 50!' - Martinez hints Argentina captain could return for 2026 World Cup & rubbishes Ronaldo GOAT claim

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Messi and Martinez
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Emiliano Martinez has hinted that Lionel Messi could return for the 2026 World Cup, with the Argentina captain capable of playing ''until he's 50''.
  • Messi backed to continue Argentina career
  • The Albiceleste through to 2022 World Cup final
  • Martinez rubbished Ronaldo's GOAT claims

WHAT HAPPENED? Messi suggested that the World Cup final on Sunday against France could be his last appearance in the competition after inspiring Argentina's 3-0 semi-final win over Croatia. The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been in sublime form throughout the 2022 tournament and has five goals and three assists to his name, along with four man-of-the-match awards. By the time the next World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the United States rolls around in 2026, Messi will be 39, but Martinez believes his team-mate could play at the highest level well beyond that given his unique physical and technical qualities.

WHAT THEY SAID: "For me, he can play until he is 50. He looks really sharp and he looks so good. He makes things look easy – it’s the hardest thing to do,'' the Argentina keeper said in an interview with Footballers Lives. "Playing alongside him has made me a better footballer for sure. It was proper for Messi to win Copa America. He represents the country as a hero. People respect Messi more than the President. People would stay home 24 hours if Messi asked them. He is number one, a hard worker and inspirational for everyone.''

THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Aston Villa shot-stopper also weighed in on the eternal debate over who is the greatest footballer of all time between Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Martinez has completely dismissed Ronaldo's claim to the GOAT title, with it his belief that Messi is number one regardless of whether he lifts the World Cup. "Do I need to answer? Messi. It's not like I have to say, Messi, it is Messi for me. Everyone knows he is a better footballer. He was born a magician," he said.

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Messi and Martinez

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WHAT NEXT FOR ARGENTINA? Martinez has the unenviable task on his hands of stopping Kylian Mbappe from scoring when Argentina take on France in the 2022 World Cup final on Sunday at the Lusail Stadium. Mbappe and Messi are both tied on five goals in the race for the tournament's Golden Boot.