Lionel Messi announced his decision to be back with Argentina’s national team for their World Cup qualifiers, less than two months after he announced his retirement from international soccer.
The Barcelona star quit his national team after Argentina lost its second consecutive Copa America final to Chile in June, extending the country’s 23-year wait for a major title. “The national team is over for me. That’s four finals [lost], it’s not for me,” Messi said after the match. “It’s a made decision, I think.”
However, the 29-year-old made a U-turn on his earlier decision, according to a statement released by Argentine media. As the country play qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela in the starting of September, Argentina’s all-time leading scorer (with 55 goals in 113 appearances) is set to be a valuable asset.
“A lot of things ran through my head on the day of the [Copa America] final. And I seriously considered leaving the team. But I love my shirt and my country too much,” ESPN quoted Messi saying in the statement.
With Edgardo Bauza taking over from Gerardo Martino as the new coach for the national squad, the management crisis at the Argentine Football Association is expected to be curbed.
In the past, Messi has made references to the problems within the federation. A few days before the Copa final, he tweeted that Argentine soccer’s governing body was “a disaster” following a series of delayed flights and problems finding opponents for training games.
However, Bauza met with Messi in Barcelona earlier this week hoping to convince him to rejoin the squad. After the meeting, ESPN quoted the coach saying: “There is no doubt in my mind that he wants to return to play for the national team.”
“I saw him with a great desire to return,” he added.
In Messi’s statement, the soccer star said: “We need to fix many things in Argentinian football, but I prefer to do this from inside and not criticise from outside.”
Along with Messi and Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano, seven Premier League players have also made it to the 27-man squad. This includes Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester United’s Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo, Tottenham’s Erik Lamela and Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton.