Hundreds rally in Argentina, begging Lionel Messi not to retire from national team

The people of Argentina have not given up on trying to convince Lionel Messi to reconsider his retirement from international soccer.

Hundreds of fans gathered in Buenos Aires on Saturday to ask that the soccer legend return to the national team following his shock retirement after the Copa America final. The cold and rain kept the numbers down, with only a few hundred fans gathering to urge their hero to return, not the thousands that had been expected.

Dressed in Messi jerseys and holding umbrellas, the crowd included fans of all ages who had messages asking the 29-year-old to return. Those displays included a handwritten poster from a little girl with the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio, which means, "Don't leave, Lio." One man waved a flag with the message "I believe in Messi" spray painted on it while another enterprising man sold T-shirts that said "Lio, don't leave us."

"Messi is the best player in history, both in Argentine and international football," fan Hernan Sanchez said during the rally. "I don't think we will see another like him in the next thousand years."

The rally was the latest effort from Messi's home country to convince the five-time Ballon d'Or-winner to keep playing for Argentina. On Tuesday, the mayor of Argentina's capital unveiled a bronze statue in Messi's likeness.

Support for Messi has been overwhelming on social media with sports figures, artists and politicians urging him to return, including fellow soccer legend Diego Maradona and Argentina's president. Billboards and signs across Buenos Aires also are asking him to stay.

Messi, who moved to Barcelona at age 13, often has faced criticism in Argentina because he has failed to deliver the country a major title -- €” in contrast to his repeated success at the club level with Barcelona.

Messi announced his decision to leave Argentina's national team after losing to Chile on penalty kicks last week in the Copa America final in the U.S. He said after losing finals four times that it seemed international soccer just wasn't for him.

The Associated Press in Buenos Aires contributed to this report.