There have been 88 occasions in Lionel Messi’s football career, when he was required to score from the spot-kick. However, for someone with a status of 5-time Ballon d’Or winner, Messi has failed to score on 20 occasions. That figure includes 8 unfruitful attempts for FC Barcelona. But the miss against Chile in the Copa America final proved critical since Argentina stood on the verge of their first major tournament victory under Messi. In 2015 too, Argentina had lost to Chile in the Copa America final and in 2014 World Cup final, the Messi-led Argentina had succumbed to Germany. Whether or not, Messi’s penalty-goal on June 26, 2016 would have brought the victory to Argentina is a moot question but the football hero took the entire blame on himself. During the post-match interview, Messi declared that his association with the Argentinian national team had come to an end with the fourth loss for the nation under his leadership. Messi’s sudden retirement from international football has shocked his large number of fans spread world-wide. The news was taken with sadness in Argentina but worse for Messi came a few days later, when the football hero was handed a 21-month prison sentence and a fine of €1.3 million by a Barcelona court for tax fraud and financial embezzlement. Despite these back-to-back hiccups, the football magician’s FC Barcelona Club career is far from over. He is already back to training ahead of the new La Liga season. To add more color, Messi now sports a brand-new hairstyle that has taken his fans by surprise and awe.
When Messi kicked the football from the penalty spot, it looped miles over the bar and so many hearts sank with disappointment. It was a crucial miss after Chile had taken the first shot on the goal and missed. Messi’s goal would certainly have lent a big psychological advantage to Argentina. That didn’t happen and Messi himself looked a personification of dejection. He stood rooted there with his teammates but was clearly out-of-sorts. The missed target had hurt him more than anybody else in the world at that instant. Argentina had never won a major tournament with the world’s best player and this was a huge chance for Messi to change the statistics. But the horrible miss became an indelible blot in the Argentine’s otherwise stunning career. As it transpired, Argentina lost 2-4 to Chile on penalties and a crushed Messi announced his retirement from international football.
A few days before coming to the USA for Copa America games, Lionel Messi faced charges of tax fraud in Barcelona. He and his father Jorge Messi were under suspicion of creating a string of fake companies in Belize and Uruguay in a bid to avoid taxation. The superstar had reportedly invested €4.16 million in these companies. Messi earned this money from image rights and his father found a method to hide the money. When Messi walked to the Court of Catalonia at Barcelona on June 2, a large gathering of onlookers outside the court hooted him. He was called a thief and one man loudly shouted that Messi should go and play in Panama in reference to the recent Panama Paper scandal. In his defense, Messi said he was playing football and entrusted all financial matters to his father. Messi’s father Jorge Horacio Messi was also accused of the fraud and all witnesses told the court that it was Jorge, who was responsible for the player’s off-field activities. Soon Messi left for the Copa America tournament and couldn’t save Argentina from another defeat in a major final. Four days after Messi’s retirement from international football came the court verdict. Both Lionel and Jorge Messi were found guilty on three counts of tax fraud and served 21 month imprisonments besides fines of €1.3 million each.
Two setbacks in less than 10 days were too much for the football superstar. But friends and well-wishers were solidly behind Messi. Once it was known that Messi could avoid the prison sentence by filing an appeal, he came out of hibernation. Messi live-in girlfriend of last several years, Antonella Roccuzzo, persuaded her beau to change his hair-color to platinum blond. She even posted Messi’s picture on her social media site but quickly withdrew it. But the world media is too quick these days and despite Antonella’s making the picture private, it had already become viral. This week, the Barcelona star trained with his teammate Luis Suarez St George’s Park near Burton-on-Trent, Central England and produced a fine exhibition of his fantastic dribbling, faking and nutmegging skills. The FCB team is undergoing a five-day training program at English Football Association’s national football center ahead of their 2016 International Champions Cup fixtures against Celtic in Dublin on July 30, and Liverpool at Wembley on August 6. No less a player than Suraez, who outscored Messi in the last La Liga season, was mightily impressed by seeing Messi at his mesmerizing best. Messi might have retired from international football but his club career at Camp Nou is far from over.
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