Whenever Lionel Messi retires from the Argentina national team, Argentine Football Association president Claudio Tapia said he intends to make sure no player ever wears the No. 10 shirt again for the Albiceleste.
“When Messi retires from the national team, we will not allow anyone else to wear the number 10 after him,” Tapia said at a press conference over the weekend. “This number 10 will be retired for life in his honor. It’s the least we can do for him.”
Though retiring jersey numbers at the club level is fairly normal, it’s less common in the international game — and for good reason.
FIFA regulations require players to wear all numbers from one to 23 during official competitions. In other words, if Argentina is committed to retiring the No. 10, then it would have to play every tournament after Messi’s retirement missing one player on the roster.
There’s also the question of whether the most iconic jersey number in the game really belongs to any single player — even one as great as Messi.
Diego Maradona made the No. 10 shirt iconic with Argentina, and subsequent playmakers like Juan Román Riquelme followed in his footsteps until Messi made the number his own. If post-Maradona players could aspire to become Argentina’s No. 10, why couldn’t post-Messi players do the same?
Argentina actually attempted to retire the No. 10 shirt in Maradona’s honor more than 20 years ago, a request that was rejected by FIFA. It’s hard to imagine this time around will be any different.
Messi cemented his status as an Argentine legend in 2022, winning the World Cup to go along with the Copa América title he won the previous year. Though he’ll turn 37 this year, Messi is still very much central to the Argentina national team’s plans at the current moment.
Last month, the Inter Miami star said he was taking his national team career day by day and though he’s not closing the door on another World Cup in 2026, he is only focused on the 2024 Copa América in the United States.
After previously claiming the 2022 World Cup would be his last, though, Messi is now pushing for 2026 and a sixth World Cup appearance.
“I’m going to arrive at an age that I normally wouldn’t be able to play in the World Cup. I said that I don’t think I’m going to be there,” he told Star+. “It seemed that after the World Cup I was retiring and quite the opposite — now I want to be there more than ever.”