Lionel Messi says the 2022 World Cup will be 'the last one'

The 2022 World Cup looks to be Lionel Messi’s last.

The 35-year-old star said in a Star Plus interview Thursday that the Qatar tournament would be “the last one.” Messi headlines an Argentina team that’s one of the favorites to lift the cup in December as it hasn’t lost in its last 34 games.

It’s not a shock that Messi won’t play in the 2026 World Cup in North America, though it’s worth noting that he’s announced his departure from international soccer before. Messi said he was retiring after Argentina lost the 2017 Copa America final on penalties but reversed his decision months later. He also briefly stepped away from the team after the 2018 World Cup.

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Messi is likely serious about this international retirement, however. The former Barcelona and current Paris Saint-Germain star will be 39 during that tournament and may not be playing competitive soccer any longer. This year’s World Cup is likely to be the swan song for Messi’s longtime rival for best player in the world Cristiano Ronaldo as well. Stars like Luka Modric and Karim Benzema may also be playing in their final World Cup games.

Messi enters the 2022 World Cup without the weight of his country’s winless streak in major tournaments. Argentina had failed to win a major tournament through Messi’s international career until it won the 2021 Copa America.

Argentina hasn’t won the World Cup since it won two out of three in 1978 and 1986 and has advanced out of the quarterfinals just once since Messi was called up to the national team in 2005. Argentina was knocked out of the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010 before finishing second to Germany in 2014. Argentina lost 4-3 to eventual champions France in the Round of 16 in 2018.

At BetMGM, Argentina is currently tied with France as No. 2 favorites to win the 2022 World Cup at +600. Brazil, who Argentina beat to win last year’s Copa America, is the favorite at +400 while England is at +700 and Spain is at +800. The tournament begins on Nov. 20 when hosts Qatar take on Ecuador.

Argentina's player Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during the second half of an international friendly soccer match against Jamaica on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Lionel Messi and Argentina are +600 to win the World Cup in what could be his final major tournament. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)