The relegation of River Plate, recent fan violence and even the growing angst that the national team have lost the ability to shape the brilliance of their attacking prowess into something clinical and triumphant.
It was 18 years ago that they last won the Copa America -- while their great rivals Brazil have won it four times since then -- and the World Cup has been a tournament of misplaced hope since 1986. Argentina kick-off the Copa today against Bolivia as hosts and bearers of the kind of expectation that can be gruelling.
The onus is on Lionel Messi to carry the team beyond this history, to impose the wonder that is a common element of Barcelona’s play but also to be the redoubtable presence that the players can gather behind.
He now lives with the obligations of being an icon, and the challenge for Sergio Batista, the Argentina coach, is how to build his side so that he can exploit the attacker’s virtuosity, and perhaps it might be said that no tournament is more in thrall to the cult of the individual.
Most of the sides taking part in the Copa rely upon a group of established and capable international players, but also find their ambitions rooted to the fate of singular talents. And it is from this collection of audacious figures -- young, free-spirited, ambitious, gifted -- that a challenger might emerge to the Messi/Cristiano Ronaldo conflict at the pinnacle of the game.
A new tier of players, able to be artistic and devastating, has either followed or is about to embark on the old trail from South America to Europe, where the small, slight Messi has beguiled a generation of supporters and become synonymous (along with Xavi and Andres Iniesta) of a style of play that is considered a form of idealism.
The likelihood is that Messi will be partnered up front by Angel di Maria, of Real Madrid, and Ezequiel Lavezzi, the Napoli forward who has caught the attention of Liverpool and Manchester City with his attacking prowess. Lavezzi, like so many emerging talents in Argentina, was once dubbed (or should it be branded) with the tag of being the “new Maradona”; but it is enough to say that the 26-year-old, who is able to carry the ball like an old-fashioned winger but also with the pace and intent to drive infield and score, is ready to move up a level in European football.
Brazil, who are seeking to win their third consecutive Copa America title (and the fifth in six years), have sent a young squad to Argentina that includes Neymar, the Santos striker, and Lucas, the Sao Paulo attacker, both of whom have been linked with moves to Chelsea. They are, typically, able to produce moments of extravagant flair, yet Neymar is susceptible to flashes of rage and was recently involved in an on-field brawl, although that has not deterred Real Madrid, who are thought to be the favourites to sign him.
Outwith Argentina and Brazil, the expectation is that Chilean Alexis Sanchez will rise to prominence, having established himself as the most sought-after player in Europe this summer. Chelsea, Manchester City and Barcelona have all been linked with the Udinese forward, who can play on the wing or behind a central striker, but he is believed to favour a move to the Camp Nou. Quick, deft, artful, he creates more goals than he scores, but the damage he wreaks by drifting around the opponent’s back line, unshackled and menacing, has become one of the most valued commodities in modern football.
Uruguay are reliant on Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez -- two strikers now established in the upper echelons of the European game -- but also Edinson Cavani, who scored 33 times for Napoli last season and whose partnership with Lavezzi was the principal reason that the club finished third in Serie A. Cavani, whose nickname is “El Matador”, is tall and powerful, fearsome when the ball is in the air (he scored a hat trick of headers against Juventus), but also shrewd and technically adroit. At 24, he is another on the verge of becoming a leading figure, although he is expected to stay at Napoli for a further season.
The other player most likely to emphasise his growing stature is Radamel Falcao, the Colombian striker who is expected to follow Andre Villas-Boas from Porto to Chelsea this summer. The 25-year-old scored the decisive strike in the Europa League final, as well as a record 17 goals in 14 games in the competition.
The outstanding individuals tend to be attackers but Javier Pastore, of Argentina, and Paulo Henrique Ganso, of Brazil, are two playmakers whose passing range, graceful movement and casual dominance of the tempo and flow of the game are also beginning to attract widespread attention. And it is this promise, of football that can combine both beauty and threat, that lies at the heart of this Copa America.
It is (now that the Home Internationals are no longer played) the oldest international tournament, and remains still capable of feeling fresh and invigorating. The expectation, or even yearning, in Argentina is for Messi to be the acclaimed performer; but there will be others, too, who are seeking to rise to his level.