Following Lionel Messi’s decision to quit Argentina duty, TEAMtalk selects the best XI of players lost to international football.
National teams across the globe have already lost some of the world’s biggest names this summer, with more surely to follow upon the conclusion of Euro 2016.
Messi was one of a number of Argentina players to step away following their Copa America final defeat, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced last week that he will no longer pull on a Sweden shirt.
Here, TEAMtalk selects an XI comprised of stars lost to the international game, with this team likely to give any national side a run for their money.
1. Samir Handanovic
The Inter Milan goalkeeper called it a day with Slovenia after his nation failed to qualify for Euro 2016 following a play-off defeat to Ukraine. The 31-year-old finished with 81 caps, making him the second-most capped player in Slovenia’s history.
2. Philipp Lahm
Lahm left the international stage in the best possible way, with his last act being to lift the World Cup trophy. The Bayern Munich star stepped away from Die Mannschaft after 113 appearances in a 10-and-a-half-year career.
3. Ashley Cole
There is little competition for the left-back spot but LA Galaxy defender Cole still brings to the party 107 international caps which were earned over a 13-year England career. Cole, now 35, retired after being overlooked for the 2014 World Cup squad.
4. Javier Mascherano
Like Messi and seemingly half of his team-mates, Mascherano stepped away from the Argentina scene after the Copa America defeat – the Barca star’s fourth runners-up medal in the competition. Add to that a World Cup final defeat in 2014 and perhaps it is understandable that the 32-year-old can’t face any more heartache or aggro from the AFA.
5. John Terry
The former England skipper felt his position in the national team was made “untenable” by the FA’s decision in 2012 to charge the centre-half with using racist language, despite being cleared of criminal charges. The Chelsea centre-back made 78 appearances and has been the subject of talk over a possible return before the last World Cup and Euro 2016.
6. Xabi Alonso
The Bayern Munich is still pulling strings in the Bundesliga, two years after returing from Spain duty following their miserable World Cup campaign in 2014. The midfielder still won a World Cup and a European Championship in an 11-year international career during which he amassed 114 caps.
7. Franck Ribery
There was plenty of talk prior to the Euros that the Bayern Munich attacker could make a return for Les Bleus in his home nation, but the 33-year-old remains in retirement following his decision in 2014 to step away to concentrate on club football.
8. Steven Gerrard
The LA Galaxy midfielder retired from England duty after captaining his nation at the 2014 World Cup – a tournament which ended in a group-stage exit. Once part of England’s underachieving ‘golden generation’, Gerrard finished with 114 appearances, with Wayne Rooney set to relegate his fellow Scouser to fourth on the all-time list when the striker faces Iceland.
9. Sergio Aguero
The Argentina striker is set to follow Messi and Mascherano’s lead by quitting Argentina following yet another final defeat. The Manchester City star is only 28 but has been dogged by injury over recent seasons. If reports are correct, Aguero finishes with 33 goals in 76 international appearances.
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
“I don’t think that in a small country like Sweden you will find another player like him,” said coach Eric Hamren after Ibrahimovic retired following his nation’s group stage exit at Euro 2016. The 34-year-old is likely to join Manchester United after racking up an impressive 62 goals in 116 international appearances.
11. Lionel Messi
The greatest of all time, according to some, revealed after the painful Copa America final defeat that “I will not try more and there will be no going back”. Messi has reportedly grown tired of the AFA but after the dust settles on yet another runners-up medal, the 29-year-old may well have a change of heart if he seeks an international finale more worthy of his supreme talent.