LIONEL Messi has insisted that he will not be playing at the next World Cup in 2026, while playing down the importance of winning another Ballon d’Or.
The Argentina forward captained his country to football’s most important trophy in Qatar last December and hinted back then that he would be too old by 2026, when the United States of America, Canada and Mexico jointly host the tournament.
He reiterated his position today in China, where he will lead out Argentina against Australia in a friendly on Thursday.
“I don’t think I’ll participate in the next World Cup. I would like to be there to watch, but I’m not going to participate,” the 35-year-old said in an interview with China TV.
“I think it (Qatar 2022) was my last World Cup. I haven’t changed my mind about that.
“After I won the World Cup that I was missing, I am satisfied and grateful for the career I have made, and this is what is most important to me.”
Messi, who was voted the Most Valuable Player at the Qatar 2022 World Cup after scoring seven goals, revealed that he had not watched back the full matches.
“No, in fact, I did not watch the World Cup matches in full. I watched many important highlights and clips of all matches, but I did not watch any full match,” he said, while praising Lionel Scaloni, who was Argentina’s head coach in Qatar.
“Scaloni? I think all coaches are different and have their own styles but for us he was a special person, regardless of the good results we always achieve.
“He reached this thanks to his idea, his work style, his closeness and the way he communicates with the team.”
Messi, who will be playing with Major League Soccer side Inter Miami after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, is in the running for a record-extending eighth Ballon d’Or.
He however claims he is no longer hungry for the award for the world’s best player.
“Another Ballon d’Or this year? At this point in my career, if it comes, it’s good, and if it doesn’t, nothing to worry about,” he noted.
“Frankly, at this stage in my life, it is no longer important to me. Individual prizes are not what matters to me. The most important prize at the moment is the World Cup which I already won. This is the greatest prize for me.”