Messi finished the game against France with two assists, but he was stranded for much of the afternoon in areas of the pitch in which he has little influence, having been picked as a false nine and forced to drop deeper in a team with no focal point ahead of him.
It was a sad and perhaps predictable end to a World Cup which never really got going for Argentina amid numerous problems for the Albiceleste, who leave with two defeats, a draw and only one win at Russia 2018 – a last-gasp victory over Nigeria.
"If things go badly, we will all have to disappear from the national team," Messi had said before the tournament. "It will be difficult because we have been together for many years. We have to think about this World Cup – and it could be the last."