Lionel Messi says this year's World Cup will be his last as a player, the 35-year-old bowing out of international football before the 2026 tournament in North America.
"This will be my last World Cup, for sure," Messi told a reporter in Argentina, via Fabrizio Romano. "The decision has been made."
[ MORE: World Cup 2022 schedule ]
Messi will turn 39 during the 2026 World Cup, so this isn't a terrible surprise, but he's still not far from the top of his powers regardless of what the Ballon d'Or voters take before coming up with the shortlist (The reigning and record Ballon d'Or winner is not on the shortlist for this year's award).
Argentina's in Group C with Mexico, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. It's wild to consider that Argentina's last game could be the last time we see the world's greatest player on a World Cup pitch.
For more on Lionel Messi's World Cup history, read on…
Latest World Cup news
World Cup 2022 schedule - groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets,... Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits USMNT held by Saudi Arabia as malaise continues
Lionel Messi's World Cup history
Messi's World Cup debut came in 2006, and it was an announcement to the world of international football.
It was eight days before his 19th birthday. Messi came into Argentina's second group-stage game and recorded a goal and an assist in 16 minutes versus Serbia-Montenegro. He'd make two more appearances but did not play in a quarterfinal loss to Germany.
Argentina's 2010 World Cup also ended in the quarterfinals against Germany, as Messi went 90 minutes in all five games. He only managed an assist against Mexico in the Round of 16, as Argentina beat Nigeria, South Korea, Greece, and Mexico.
2014 saw Messi in magnificent form, scoring in every group game - wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria - and then assisting the extra time winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16. Argentina then beat Belgium and the Netherlands before losing 1-0 in extra time to Germany in his lone World Cup Final to date.
The most recent World Cup nearly saw Argentina bounced in the group stage, but Messi scored in a 2-1 win over Nigeria to set up a Round of 16 match with France. Messi posted two assists in a 4-3 loss to the eventual champs. Current teammate Kylian Mbappe had two goals and drew a penalty to send Argentina home.
Lionel Messi: 2022 World Cup will be my last as a player originally appeared on NBCSports.com