Never say never again: Lionel Messi on playing in 2026 FIFA World Cup

Argentine maestro, ready for title defence in Copa America this month, says it all depends on how he feels

Lionel Messi with the 2022 World Cup (photo: Getty Images)
Lionel Messi with the 2022 World Cup (photo: Getty Images)

NH Sports Bureau

Lionel Messi is back in the news again. As the maestro braces up to lead Argentina’s title defence in the Copa America later this month, he kept his options open for playing in the 2026 FIFA World Cup – to be played in the US, Mexico and Canada.   

Ever since moving to the US to play his trade for Inter Miami, the 2022 World Cup winner has become the biggest mascot for football there – and there are no prizes for guessing that there will be pressure from different quarters for one last dance from him. Messi, now 37, had earlier said that Qatar signalled his last World Cup appearance.

 Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with, Messi kept it open-ended about his chances of playing in another World Cup in two years’ time: “It depends on how I feel, how I am physically and being realistic with myself. And to know if I am up to the task of being able to compete and help the colleagues next to me.” 

“There’s a while left and I don’t know how I’m going to be at that moment,” Messi said, adding: ‘’Age is also a reality that is there, although it is a number, the games that I am going to play are not the same as the ones I played when I was in Europe in competition, which were every three days, or in the Champions League or in the League where I was, both in France and in Spain. But it depends on how I feel and how I feel when I’m next to my teammates and see if I’m still up to the task or not.” 

Incidentally, he had spoken on similar lines in another interview last December on completion of one year of his dream campaign in Doha.

Meanwhile, the Albiceleste will take centerstage in the Copa América opener against Canada in Atlanta on 20 June. They will play Chile next at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on 25 June and against Peru at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on 29 June. The final is set for 14 July in Miami.

Messi’s men, who had beaten Brazil in the last final, will warm up with two friendlies – first against Ecuador at  Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday, 9 June, and then Guatemala at Commanders Field in Landover, Maryland, on 14 June.

Messi revealed that he still hasn’t watched a replay of that victory against France except for a few match highlights. ‘’My memories are all here and I live it the way I have it here and I remember what I remember. There are many things that escape me, but well, for now, I’m keeping what I have without going over it,” Messi said in the interview.

 Asked if Argentina will be a favourite again in the Copa, Messi said: “I think that Argentina is always a favourite, beyond the fact that we come from winning all that. Previously, when it was not given that we could achieve the objectives, also Argentina was always a favourite.”

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