A statue of Argentina soccer star Lionel Messi was unveiled in Buenos Aires on Tuesday (June 28), just days after the Barcelona forward announced he was walking away from international play.
The statue was uncovered by Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta who said the inauguration of the statue was just on time to call on Messi to reconsider his decision to leave the national team.
“It’s a very opportune moment we have today with the inauguration of his statue. And I think a good way to ask Lio to come with us, for him to remain together with us and for him to take us by the hand and to win, and I don’t have any doubts that we’d win the World Cup in Russia, is for those who can, Portenos or Argentines who come here to visit; to come, take your picture with the statue of Lio and post it on social media as a way to ask Lio to stick with us,” Rodriguez Larreta said.
Argentina’s failure to defeat Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario in the United States, a fourth lost final with the national team for Messi, proved too much for the little magician leading him to quit international football on June 26.
Taking into account the Confederations Cup, Argentina have lost seven major finals since 1995, three of them to arch-rivals Brazil, and four since Messi’s debut in 2005, including the 2014 World Cup final defeat by Germany.
Members from Argentina’s 1986 World Cup championship team also weighed in on Messi’s departure.
“I think it is just a hot moment, of frustration for not being able to achieve anything, but hopefully, God willing, he will reevaluate what he said and remain on the national team,” said Hector Enrique of the 1986 squad.
“There’s nothing to say to Messi. He just needs to talk with himself and his family,” said Carlos Bilbardo who led the 1986 team as coach.
“Messi’s retirement is due to the difficult moment he is going through. It is definitely his toughest moment as far as soccer goes, but I don’t think this is the end. He will analyse it, evaluate it, and Messi is going to continue to play with the Argentine national team. Maybe that’s just what I think. We’ll have to see how he feels,” added Luis Islas who was a substitute goalkeeper for the 1986 side.
Messi’s only major international honour has been Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, even though at club level he has won four Champions Leagues with Spain’s Barcelona.
Messi has been named World Player of the year five times and he surpassed Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina’s top scorer in the Copa America semi-final against the United States.
The statue, made of polyester resin and reinforced fiberglass built around a medal interior, was designed by realist sculptor Carlos Benavidez.
The statue stands at Buenos Aires’ Paseo de la Gloria “Glory Way” which honours national sports heroes in the city’s Costanera Sur Park near the Puerto Madero neighbourhood.