Sunday 19 January 2020

Lionel Messi reverses decision to retire from international football

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Press Association

Lionel Messi has reversed his decision to retire from international football, saying he loves Argentina "too much".

The Barcelona playmaker announced immediately after Argentina's penalty shoot-out loss to Chile in the Copa America final in June that he was calling time on his Albiceleste career.

However, having this week met with new Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza, the 29-year-old has now confirmed he will be available for selection again.

Messi, Argentina's captain and all-time record goalscorer with 55 goals, said in a statement reproduced by Argentinian newspaper La Nacion: "I see there are many problems in Argentinian football and I don't intend to create another one.

"I don't want to cause any damage, I've always tried to do just the opposite, to help all that I can.

"We need to fix many things in Argentinian football, but I prefer to do this from inside and not criticise from outside."

Messi said he was quitting international football after missing a penalty in the Copa America final shoot-out at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA.

That would have left Messi - one of the most decorated players in history at club level with Barca - having never won a major trophy with Argentina,

As well as June's defeat to Chile, the reigning FIFA Ballon d'Or also tasted defeat in the 2007 and 2015 Copa America finals, as well as the World Cup final in 2014.

He added: "Many things went through my head the day of the last final and I seriously thought of leaving, but I love this country and this shirt too much.

"I'm grateful to all the people who wanted me to continue playing with Argentina, hopefully we can give them something to cheer about soon."

Within hours it was confirmed that Messi had been included in the Argentina squad named by Bauza for the World Cup qualifiers at home to Uruguay and away to Venezuela on September 1 and 6 respectively.

The squad also featured Manchester City trio Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo plus Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton.

Tottenham's Erik Lamela made it seven Premier League players in total in the Argentina group, with Messi's Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano also among the 27-man squad.

PA Media

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