With so much football going on right now, it’s hard to know where to look.
The Women’s World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations and Copa America tournaments have taken centre stage in recent weeks, while many clubs around Europe are trading millions in buying and selling players in preparation for the 2019/20 season.
The early stages of the Champions League are also taking place, so it would be no surprise if many people failed to notice that Argentina were beaten by Brazil in the semi-finals of Copa America.
On the face of it, it’s just another story, but scratch below the surface and you will discover that this represents another international disappointment for one of the greatest players of all time, Lionel Messi.
The little Argentinian has been lighting up stadia around Europe for more than 14 years and, in the process, has been one of the main reasons why Barcelona has won La Liga ten times during his career, along with four successes in the Champions League.
He has also collected numerous individual awards including FIFA’s prestigious Ballon d’Or five times.
However, the one thing missing from his incredibly impressive CV is an international team honour with Argentina, whose 2-0 defeat to arch-rivals Brazil in Belo Horizonte was the latest setback for the 32-year-old.
Four times he has been beaten in major finals with Argentina, three of these in Copa America and once in the World Cup.
His first loss came at the hands of Brazil, just a few weeks after his 20th birthday, in a competition staged in Venezuela. At least this was a comprehensive 3-0 defeat, and there was nothing the young Messi could do about it.
The other two Copa defeats were certainly more painful, losing twice in finals to Chile, with both of these matches ending in penalty shoot-outs – following 120 minutes of goalless action.
The first of these games was played in the Chilean capital of Santiago, where Messi was the only member of his team to score a penalty in a 4-1 shoot-out defeat.
The next encounter, in New Jersey, United States, was a 4-2 loss, with Messi missing from the spot on this occasion.
Immediately after the match, Messi announced he was retiring from international football, before changing his mind a few months later.
In addition to these three Copa America disappointments, Messi was a member of another Argentina side to lose a major final in extra-time.
On this occasion, an injury-depleted Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where substitute Mario Gotze netted the only goal in the 113th minute. Another bitter loss at international level.
But life goes on for Messi, who will be back trying to help Barcelona clinch a La Liga hat-trick in 2020 – and fifth title in six seasons.
La Liga betting certainly believes the Catalan club will win again – not surprising considering they topped the Spanish league by 11 points last season. As things stand (with Bet365 on July 9th), Barcelona are 4/6 to retain the title, while Real Madrid are 11/8. Last year’s runners-up Atletico Madrid are 16/1, with Valencia next in the list at 100/1.
And there is one ray of light for Messi regarding his fast disappearing international ambitions too, with the news that because of a change in the tournament’s future cycle, there will be another Copa America tournament next year, with Argentina and Colombia sharing hosting duties.
One final chance for Messi or has he already come to the end of his international road?