Argentina president asks Lionel Messi to reconsider national team exit

Argentina President Mauricio Macri told reporters on Tuesday that he spoke with Lionel Messi over the phone on Monday night to try to convince the Barcelona star to reconsider his decision to quit the national team after their Copa America Centenario defeat.

Argentina lost 4-2 on penalties to Chile after a 0-0 draw in MetLife Stadium, and an emotional Messi said after the match that his career with the national team is over.

Macri told reporters on Tuesday that he told the striker "not to pay any attention to the comments being made because, in truth, we are very happy" with the job he has done.

"He thanked me," Macri said. "I don't understand, the truth is that he brings us luck, he brings joy to our lives and it is a gift from God to have the best player in the world for a country that is as football-mad as we are."

Macri, who was president at Boca Juniors before moving into the world of politics, said he was hopeful that he would be able to meet with Messi next week before the Rosario native returns to Barcelona.

Since his return to Argentina on Monday, Messi has not spoken any more about his decision, which he first revealed to reporters after Sunday's defeat.

Messi moved to Barcelona in 2001 when he was 13, producing lots of hardware for the Catalan club. But many fans at home have criticised him for not leading the nation to a World Cup title, as Diego Maradona did in 1986. He lost the 2014 World Cup final and three Copa America finals while playing for Argentina.

Fans and even Maradona himself have asked Messi to reconsider. On Tuesday, the mayor of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, unveiled a statue in Messi's honour and encouraged Argentina to flood social media with messages encouraging his return.

"As a football fan, Lio, I am asking you to please reconsider your decision," the mayor said. "As a show of our love and support we are going to inaugurate a statue in Costanera Sur's Paseo de la Gloria."

The city also posting transit signs that said: "Don't go Lio," on the city's main streets and at subway entrances.

Macri on Monday said via Twitter that "more than ever I feel great pride for our team. I hope we can continue to have the joy of seeing the world's best player for many years."

Macri ended his tweet with the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio (#Don'tLeaveLio), which became a global trending topic on Monday.

Nicolas Russo, the president of the Argentine club Lanus, said the Argentine Football Association will try to change his mind.

"He has to stay," Russo said.