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Lionel Messi tells Jorge Valdano: I’ll keep playing in this shirt until the 2026 World Cup

Lionel Messi has finally done it. At the fifth time of asking, he inspired Argentina to their first World Cup trophy in 36 years, scoring twice in the most dramatic of dramatic finals the competitions has ever seen (although French fans will tell you that his goal in extra-time, which was Argentina’s third, shouldn’t have counted).

What records did Lionel Messi break in the Qatar 2022 World Cup?

In true Messi fashion, the Paris Saint-Germain superstar broke a number of records along the way. In scoring seven goals in the tournament (not enough to pip final hat-trick hero Kylian Mbappé to the Golden Boot), he first surpassed Diego Maradona’s second of World Cup goals, then took Gabriel Batistuta’s all-time Argentinian record in the competition.

Messi’s appearance in the final means he has now played 26 World Cup matches, one more than previous record holder Lothar Matthäus. His double on Sunday means he’s the only player to have scored in the group stages and in each knockout round in the present format. Messi also become the first player to win the Golden Ball in two different tournaments (he also won in 2014) and he’s now become the all-time South American top goalscorer in international tournaments ahead of Brazil’s Ronaldo.

Was Qatar 2022 Lionel Messi’s last World Cup?

It feels as if it’s the perfect way to bow out of international soccer. “This will be my last World Cup, for sure. The decision has been made. I’m counting down the days until the World Cup. On the one hand, I can’t wait for it to arrive but I’m also really desperate for it to go well,” Messi told Argentinian television back in October.

Well, it has gone well…rather well, you might say. And now former Argentina forward Jorge Valdano, who won the World Cup alongside Diego Maradona in 1986, has revealed details of a private conversation he had with Messi, in which the for Bareclona playmaker promised he would play on if La Albiceleste won the trophy.

Lionel Messi’s resume 🐐

– 7x Ballon d’Or
– 6x European Golden Shoe
– 4x UEFA Champions League
– 2x FIFA World Cup Golden Ball
– 2x Club World Cup Golden Ball
– 10 x La Liga titles
– 1x Ligue 1 title
– 2008 Olympic Gold Medal
– 2021 Copa América
– 2022 FIFA World Cup pic.twitter.com/eVkFe2phxT

— GQ Sports (@GQSports) December 20, 2022

Jorge Valdano: Lionel Messi told me he’d play until the 2026 World Cup

Speaking to Spanish radio station Cope, Valdano explained: “I did an interview with him a week before the World Cup and off camera I made a joke, saying ‘Well, you will be among those who have played five World Cups.

“Before leaving he tells me, ‘If I’m world champion, I’ll keep playing in this shirt until the next World Cup.’

I don’t know. This euphoria will help him stay in the Argentina shirt for a while longer. We’ll see if he makes it to another.”

Following Sunday’s victory in Qatar, Messi was of a similar mind, saying “I want to play in this shirt as a world champion.” Whether that would take him as far as the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada, by which time Messi will be 39, remains to be seen but it sounds like there might be more of a chance now that there was a couple of months ago.

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