Argentina striker Sergio Aguero said captain Lionel Messi was "broken" after missing from the spot in his country's Copa America Centenario final penalty-shootout defeat to Chile on Sunday evening. Plus, the forward hinted he could follow his team-mate into early international retirement.
La Albiceleste lost a third major final in two years on Sunday, and Aguero emphasised just how badly five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi took the defeat, per the Mirror's Hamish Mackay:
We are all s----y, we are trying to think about other things and continue on forward. But it's hard. Once again luck has gone against us.
Unfortunately, the most broken one is Messi for his missed penalty. It is the worst I have ever seen him in the dressing rooms after a game.
Messi, 29, announced his retirement from international football after the result, per the Sun's Jim Sheridan, saying: "For me the national team is over. I’ve done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion. My thinking right now and thinking about it in the locker room, I’m done playing with the national team."
The forward leaves Argentina's ranks as the nation's top scorer with 55 goals in 113 appearances, but it's possible his last kick for the team could go down as one of the worst sign-offs in football:
Manchester City marvel Aguero, 28, and Barcelona's Javier Mascherano, 32, are also said to have hung up their boots, with Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Gonzalo Higuain and Lucas Biglia all reportedly set to follow.
Argentina would be losing a dangerous amount of superstar talent if the reports prove accurate, and manager Gerardo Martino's side could face a major rebuild during their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Sunday's loss was the second year in succession Argentina have surrendered the Copa America to Chile via a penalty shootout, both of which came after defeat to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.
The series of near-misses would be difficult for any player to take, and for Messi, it appears to have become too tiresome to continue through, with others following suit.
Goal's Sam Lee provided more context on the emotion surrounding the team following their emotional loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario, a tournament they were favoured to win from the outset:
It's a worrying predicament for Argentina considering so many of those speculated to be considering retirement are either in or approaching their physical primes.
Bleacher Report's Jason Pettigrove described the chaos that emerged late on Sunday evening as the world reacted to Argentina's finale fallout the following morning:
Messi and Aguero are known to be firm friends in the Argentina camp, and the Barcelona talisman is even godfather to his international team-mate's son, Benjamin, per Yahoo, meaning a sense of solidarity may have played its role in the exodus.
The Argentinian media's treatment of their hallowed son may also be partly to blame for Messi's retirement, and the forward encountered particularly harsh criticism after La Albiceleste failed to win the World Cup two years ago.
In an interview with Argentinian broadcaster TyC Sports in December 2014, Messi refused to accept blame for the World Cup loss to Germany and told his critics to "p--s off" (h/t Mirror's Liam Prenderville).
Losing Messi and Aguero to retirement would be bad enough for the country, but to also lose Higuain and Di Maria, both 28, would reduce the country's attacking options substantially.