EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Lionel Messi may have failed to score in the fourth final of his international career, and he may have missed his penalty kick in Sunday's Copa America Centenario final, but that didn't change Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi's opinion of his fellow Argentine.
For Pizzi, Messi remains the best player of all time.
Right around the same time Messi was announcing his plans to retire from the Argentine national team, Pizzi was singing the praises of the Barcelona star, making it clear he feels there has never been a better player.
"On top of having an admiration for Messi, I'm driven very much by the numbers," Pizzi said Sunday. "Because I know what it means to value certain numbers and Messi's numbers are unmatched, and I don't think they will ever be matched because it's impossible for a player to find the things that Messi finds."
"The people, at times, are very particular when it comes to valuing certain things," Pizzi continued. "I do it from a point of view that's very personal — everyone should do so from a personal point of view — and in my point of view Messi is the best player of all time."
Messi's frustrations in losing a third straight major international final were clear for all to see as he shed tears after the penalty shootout loss to Chile, no doubt feeling the anguish of falling short yet again in his quest to win Argentina's first major title in 23 years. Messi has taken the bulk of the blame for that drought going on this long, as he has faced the pressure of trying to live up to the legacy of former Argentine great Diego Maradona.
"My generation can't compare (Messi) with Maradona, because of my generation, because of what Maradona did for Argentine soccer," Pizzi said. "But it seems to be the best payer in history played today here in the United States and for me the numbers are irrefutable."
Pizzi had plenty of praise for his team's successful defense of the 2015 Copa America title it won on home soil, providing a reminder of just how tough a challenge Chile faced in Sunday's Copa America final.
"That group has helped us become a strong national team, a team that can compete with the best," Pizzi said. "In front of us today we had the number one team in the world, with the best players in the world, with the best player in history, and with all the virtues I spoke about, we were able to compete."