Buenos Aires [Argentina], February 3 (ANI): Argentine star Lionel Messi stated that his participation in the 2026 FIFA World Cup is subject to his fitness at that time and will try to maintain his best shape given his age factor.
"Because of age, it'll be difficult to make 2026. I love playing football and while I feel like I'm in good shape and enjoying this, I'm going to keep at it. It seems like a long time until the next World Cup, but it depends on how my career is going," Messi told the Argentine publication Diario Ole as quoted by ESPN.
The World Cup champion is 35 years old and will turn 36 on June 24, 2023. By the time the next FIFA World Cup starts, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will be 39 years old.
Messi stated last year that the tournament in Qatar would be his last. However, after Argentina won the World Cup in December, the forward indicated that he is willing to compete in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in three years.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has also encouraged Messi to play in another World Cup.
"I think Messi can make it to the next World Cup. It will depend a lot on what he wants and what happens over time, that he feels good. The doors will always be open. He is happy on the pitch, and for us [it] would be good," Scaloni told Spanish radio Calvia FM last month as quoted by ESPN.
Messi already owns the record for most World Cup appearances, surpassing Germany's Lothar Matthaus with his 26th appearance in the 2022 final victory over France. He is also one of only five players to have appeared in five World Cups.
Playing in the 2026 World Cup would also provide the Rosario native with the opportunity to become the World Cup's all-time leading scorer. He now has 13 goals in the competition, three behind Germany's record-holder Miroslav Klose, after scoring seven in Qatar to help Argentina win their third World Cup.
Messi scored twice in the World Cup final in Doha during a thrilling 3-3 tie with France that Argentina went on to win in a penalty shootout to give the seven-time World Cup winner his first World Cup title.
"I saw the cup there, so close, that I was drawn to be near it, touch it, kiss it. It was such an exciting feeling to say 'it's done,'" Messi said of lifting the trophy. To this day it remains such an exciting moment. Even when I see it now, I enjoy it more than I did at that moment. Things have calmed down since, so it's more exciting for me. I see a lot of videos on social media now," expressed Messi. (ANI)