Is Messi reconsidering decision on international retirement?
Argentine newspaper La Nacion cites an unnamed former teammate of Messi as saying that the star will sit out the games against Uruguay and Venezuela in September, but will then make a return with the ultimate aim of claiming World Cup glory in Russia in 2018.
The Barcelona superstar missed a penalty in the Copa America final shootout defeat to Chile at the end of June – Argentina’s fourth Copa America final defeat in the past 12 years, and the third on penalties.
That prompted Messi to announce he was hanging up his boots from the international game, a decision that was expected to trigger several others to follow suit.
The national team is over for me. I’ve done all I can, it hurts not to be a champion - Lionell Messi https://t.co/iWRMkx6Doj— RT Sport (@rtsportnews) 27 June 2016
But Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner – has reportedly had a change of heart and could return to lead his country at the next World Cup.
Hundreds of football fans gathered in Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires, on Saturday to demonstrate their appreciation for the playmaker, pleading with him to continue with the national team.
Assembling in the rain near the Obelisco de Buenos Aires, supporters reportedly cried out for Messi to remain in the squad, cheering "lead us Messiah."
The rally for his return appears to have begun on social media, where the hashtag #NoTeVayasLio, or #Don't go, Lio, featured alongside images of the player.
The rally seems to have had the desired effect with Messi allegedly expected to return in time for Russia 2018 qualifying after taking a break during September's international fixtures.
For all his club and personal accolades, international success has so far evaded Messi, with Argentina losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany, and then consecutive Copa America finals to Chile in 2015 and 2016. The only medal the 29-year-old has to show for his international career is the 2008 Olympic Gold he won with Argentina's Under-23 side.
Messi became his country's all-time leading goalscorer during the Copa America, scoring his 55th career international goal to surpass Gabriel Batistuta's record.
Messi has predictably changed his mind and will return to the national team after a break. Wants to win the World Cup in Russia now.— Artur Petrosyan (@arturpetrosyan) July 4, 2016