Messi enjoying 'last battles' to fullest as Argentina reaches Copa America final

Lionel Messi, his legendary left foot louder than his soft-spoken voice, sent a message to his legion of fans after Argentina reached the Copa America 2024 final.

Enjoy this moment, these moments, while they last.

Messi scored a quirky goal, and Argentina defeated Canada, 2-0, in its Copa America semifinal on Tuesday night to set the stage for Messi and Argentina soccer to be remembered as one of the sport’s all-time great dynasties.

The Copa America final is Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, against Colombia or Uruguay, pending Wednesday night's semifinal.

"It's crazy what this group did, what the Argentine national team has been doing. After this, much more importance will be given to all the finals that I and the old group had to play in," Messi said following the match at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

"We have to enjoy everything we are experiencing as a national team. What we have achieved is very difficult. We have to take advantage of it."

Messi’s life changed since his World Cup win.

Lionel Messi (10) celebrates his goal against Canada at Metlife Stadium.
Lionel Messi (10) celebrates his goal against Canada at Metlife Stadium.

And before it changes again − with the 2026 World Cup or retirement in the near distance − he wants to soak it all in during this Copa America run to the final.

"These are the last battles, and I am enjoying them to the fullest," Messi said.

Not just for him, but for his teammates like Ángel Di María, the big-game scorer Messi needed to get the international monkey off his back. The Copa America final will be Di María’s final match with the Argentine national team.

"Before going out on the field, Leo said they wanted to reach the final for me, and that fills me with pride," Di María said. "Having that possibility of being able to achieve everything I achieved this last time with all of them is a source of pride for me."

Messi also wants Argentine fans who have grown accustomed to their winning, the same ones who bemoaned him for not being able to win Copa America or the World Cup, to enjoy these moments.

Argentina was a favorite to reach this final, fulfilling this sort of comfortable destiny and reputation of being World Cup champions.

Sure, a game-tying goal against Ecuador in the quarterfinals last week went to penalties, and Messi missed his shot. But no need to panic. Never a doubt.

Argentina outmatched Canada, which earned the prize of meeting with the international juggernaut by outlasting the likes of Brazil, Venezuela and the United States to reach the Copa America final four.

"Yesterday, one of my colleagues was saying maybe we are normalizing these," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said. "It is extremely tough to reach another final. We are carrying over a great level of praise with great success. We know how hard it is to get here."

Argentina won Copa America 2021. It beat the Euro 2021 champions, Italy, in the 2022 Finalissima two summers ago. Argentina won the Qatar World Cup in 2022. Another Copa America crown would be Argentina’s fourth major international championship in a three-year span.

Messi wants his fans to savor and remember: This is a fleeting moment. Not everything lasts. He can tell you best.

Messi’s international success − the success he longed for his entire career when he was a Barcelona star − followed his Barcelona exit in 2021.

All that’s left is Barcelona memories of his four UEFA Champions League crowns, seven Copa del Rey titles and 10 La Liga titles − appreciated more after his sour Paris Saint-Germain stint.

Messi will make some more memories later this year and next with Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, like he did last summer, winning a title seven games into his career in the United States.

But this Copa America final will be his last.

And whether Messi plays in the next World Cup will depend on his health and desire, as he’s indicated.

"We have to let him be," Scaloni said of Messi’s comments. "We will never be the ones to close the door. He can be with our team with as long as he wants to be."

Messi hasn’t closed the door just yet. He has another trophy to pursue before this all-time Argentina run comes to an end.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Messi, Argentina in Copa America final, pursue dynasty status