In an unexpected podcast appearance, the eight-time Ballon d'Or winner opened up about his Qatar 2022 success and his inevitable retirement from the beautiful game.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has gone down as the greatest moment in Lionel Messi's already iconic career. After four failed attempts, the Argentine icon finally got his hands on the most prestigious trophy in football following an unforgettable penalty shootout victory over France in the final. 

La Pulga returned to Buenos Aires—and later his hometown Rosario—as a hero, with large crowds taking to the streets to thank the 36-year-old for his heroics in Qatar. However, after squandering the lead twice in the final, Argentina came achingly close to missing out on the title, which begs the question: what would Messi have done had La Albiceleste lost to France?

The eight-time Ballon d'Or winner has revealed the answer to that question in a surprise appearance on the Big Time Podcast. The 36-year-old opened up about an array of topics, ranging from his inevitable retirement to his heartbreaking exit from Barcelona. However, he had never before revealed what he would have done had Argentina failed to win the FIFA World Cup.

The Inter Miami ace admits that he would have left the national team had Qatar 2022 ended in heartbreak, which might not surprise everyone, as some expected the attacker to retire following the final regardless. Leo opted against this, stating that he wanted to continue playing as a world champion, but things would have gone differently had they lost that penalty shootout.

"Winning the World Cup was magical for us, our families and the whole country, it will stay with us for the rest of our lives. I would probably have left the national team if we didn't win the World Cup, but luckily it happened and we gave Argentina another title," he said.

Had it not been for a sensational last-gasp save from Emiliano Martinez to prevent Les Bleus from winning the game in stoppage time, this hypothetical could have become a reality. Fortunately for Messi, he will now be able to retire with a FIFA World Cup crown in his cabinet. 

Speaking of retirement, the Argentine sensation opened up about the possibility of hanging up his boots. The former Barcelona ace is sadly past is prime but is showing in Major League Soccer that he can still deliver moments of magic.

The player also revealed that he does not think about retirement currently, instead taking time to enjoy the here and now. "I haven't thought about it yet, at the moment I try to enjoy the day to day, the moments, without thinking about the future," Messi added. "I don't have anything clear yet, I hope to continue playing for a while longer, which is what I like.

However, the veteran forward confessed that he will not hesitate to retire once he no longer feels he can contribute on the pitch, saying: "On a sporting level I was lucky enough to be able to achieve all my dreams and the truth is that I can't ask for more.

"Thank God he gave me so much on a professional and human level, as well as with my family, my friends. I try to enjoy everything God has given me so far, which is a lot.

"I know that the moment I feel that I am no longer ready to perform, that I am no longer enjoying myself or helping my team-mates. I'm very self-critical of myself, I know when I'm good, when I'm bad, when I'm playing well and when I'm playing badly.

"When I feel it's time to take that step, I will take it without thinking about age. If I feel good I will always try to continue competing because that's what I like and what I know how to do."

Fortunately for fans of the beautiful game, Messi is still delivering on the pitch. One simply needs to look at his form for Inter Miami to understand this, with the 36-year-old racking up seven goal contributions (five goals and two assists) in his first five appearances.

The Herons have lost two games already this campaign and both defeats occurred in Messi's absence. Sadly, the Argentine has struggled for fitness since arriving in Florida but is hoping to be available for Inter Miami's crucial CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinal fixture against Liga MX leaders Monterrey, scheduled for Wednesday.