Messi-mania is at an all-time high as the great man looks to have another major trophy in the bag. The 2024 Copa America starts early Friday morning with defending champions Argentina taking on Canada at Atlanta in the United States of America.

Lionel Messi is heading into the 2024 edition as an ultra-achiever.(AP)

In all likelihood, this is going to be Messi’s last international tournament. The next major tournament is going to be the World Cup in 2026 and the forward, who is going to turn 37 next week, can’t sure have enough legs to last another two years, can he? Football is a demanding game after all, not just mentally, but also physically.

Now catch your favourite game on Crickit. Anytime Anywhere. Find out how

That’s why the 2024 Copa America becomes such an important spectacle for fans all over the world. Last time when the tournament happened in 2021, things were starkly different for the Argentine superstar. He had not had any major international trophy to speak of and fans and experts alike were questioning his greatness. He appeared to have fallen behind Cristiano Ronaldo – winner of Euro 2016 with Portugal — in the GOAT debate too.

Three years on… a lot has happened. Feels like Providence had a hand as Messi not only won the Copa America in 2021 but the very next year he also won the biggest trophy on the planet. Yes, the World Cup in Qatar. Mind you, he wasn’t just a participant. He actually played a very important role in the South American nation’s success in those two tournaments. The GOAT debate was swiftly thrown out the window.

Messi is heading into the 2024 edition as an ultra-achiever. There is nothing to prove. World Cup winner, Copa America winner, one of highest goal-scorers in the history of international football and highly decorated footballer at club level… he has seen and done it all.

But if it’s going to his last international tournament, we have seen him enough in action to know that he is going to do his damnedest to win another trophy. In the months before the 2021 Copa America, he was visibly on the decline, didn’t look as potent as before. The way he has resurrected himself since says a lot about what kind of person he is, and his mentality.

Believe it or not, there is a strong possibility that if Argentina can defend their Copa title successfully, he may continue and eventually feature in the US-Canada-Mexico event in 2026.

His strategy is very clear. He is taking one tournament at a time. If he can be resourceful on the pitch benefiting his team in a desired way, why should he call it quits?! This argument perfectly makes sense.

Messi could have left after the 2022 World Cup win. There couldn’t have been a better time. But the fact he didn’t suggests his hunger for trophies was not satiated after all. So, there is a very strong possibility that Messi continues to play for Argentina even after the Copa. Besides, he has not said anything concrete about whether the Copa will be his last appearance.

We will know that soon enough. For now, we should treat the Copa America as if it’s Messi’s last appearance. The European Championship – Copa’s equivalent — is also going on at present and whenever these two tournaments coincide, the Euros manages to get more eyeballs, for, from a holistic point of view, much better teams and players are on view over there.

But thanks to the uncertainty surrounding him, there will be plenty of focus on the tournament this time around. The 2024 Copa America is going to be an emotional ride for his fans, to be sure. In the absence of Neymar of Brazil owing to injury, Messi is carrying the flag for both the North and South continents now.

When all is said and done, whatever may be the outcome of the tournament and whether or not Messi decides to continue, his place in history as one of the greatest footballers is already sealed. No two ways!