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Messi not ruling out playing in 2026 World Cup

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Published in Soccer
Thursday, 02 February 2023 16:12

Lionel Messi is not ruling out playing for Argentina at the 2026 World Cup, but admitted age will make it difficult to compete in the tournament.

Messi, who will turn 39 during the next World Cup, had said last year that the 2022 tournament in Qatar would be his last. However, with Argentina going on to lift the trophy in December, Messi has now suggested he is open to competing in the United States, Canada and Mexico in three years' time.

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"Because of age it'll be difficult to make 2026," Messi told Argentine publication Diario Olé. "I love playing football and while I feel like I'm in good shape and enjoying this, I'm going to keep at it. It seems like a long time until the next World Cup, but it depends on how my career is going."

Encouragement for Messi to play another World Cup has also come from Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.

"I think Messi can make it to the next World Cup," Scaloni told Spanish radio Calvia FM last month. "It will depend a lot on what he wants and what happens over time, that he feels good. The doors will always be open. He is happy on the pitch, and for us [it] would be good."

Messi already holds the record for most World Cup appearances after eclipsing Germany's Lothar Matthaus by playing his 26th match in the dramatic 2022 final victory over France. He is also one of only five players to have taken the field in five different World Cups.

Playing in 2026 would also give the Rosario-native a chance to become the World Cup's all-time leading scorer. After netting seven times in Qatar to help Argentina to their third World Cup triumph, he now has 13 goals in the competition, three behind record-holder Miroslav Klose of Germany.

Messi scored twice in the World Cup final in Doha during a thrilling 3-3 draw with France that Argentina went onto win in a penalty shootout to give the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner the sole major trophy to have previously eluded him in his career.

"I saw the cup there, so close, that I was drawn to be near it, touch it, kiss it. It was such an exciting feeling to say 'it's done,'" Messi said of lifting the trophy.

"To this day it remains such an exciting moment. Even when I see it now, I enjoy it more than I did at that moment. Things have calmed down since, so it's more exciting for me. I see a lot of videos on social media now."

Messi's PSG teammate Kylian Mbappe finished on the losing side in the final, despite scoring a hat trick, and the former Barcelona star, who himself experienced losing a World Cup final in 2014, admitted the pair have not spent much time discussing the events of that day.

"With Mbappe, we talked a bit about the game, the celebrations. But that's it," Messi said.

"I happened to be on the other side, losing a final, and I didn't want any of that talk. That's why I don't want to broach the subject, but no problems with Kylian."

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