‘Why does he have to carry these bums?’ Messi endures more misery on Argentina return
Messi last appeared in the light-blue and white of Argentina at the World Cup in Russia, after which he took a self-imposed exile from the team.
That ended last night as he captained the team in a friendly against South American rivals Venezuela at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Spanish capital, although it was a familiar tale of disappointment on the international stage for the number 10.
Newcastle United striker Salomon Rondon gave Venezuela the lead after just six minutes, before Jhon Murillo doubled their advantage on 44 minutes with a stunning long-range effort.
Lautaro Martinez put his team back in it with a goal after the break, but Josef Martinez sealed the win for Venezuela with a penalty 15 minutes from time.
Messi, 31, completed the game but to make matters worse he suffered a recurrence of a groin injury which, while not deemed too serious, means he will definitely miss Tuesday’s friendly against Morocco in Tangier.
Much of the talk since Friday's defeat has focused on the continuation of Messi’s international woes, as he has yet to enjoy the success with Argentina that has adorned his club career.
Messi suffered more World Cup pain in Russia last summer, crashing out at the last 16 stage to eventual winners France in a campaign in which the number 10 failed to fully ignite.
There are times when the weight of expectation at international level - where he has scored 65 times in 129 games - has appeared too much for even Messi's shoulders to bear.
After Friday’s loss, La Albiceleste boss Lionel Scaloni - who admittedly fielded something of an experimental line-up - encouraged Messi's teammates to “take a step forward” to help their star man out.
The theme of Messi “carrying” his fellow Argentines was also a common one on social media, where fans said that the number 10 was often putting it on a plate for teammates, only for them to comically mess things up.
Isn't it funny how people who call Messi an international fraud and accuse him of only performing in club football also say shit like "Argentina have Dybala, Higuain" etc.— Josip (@gentblaugrana93) March 23, 2019
Tell me one good game Dybala has had for Argentina. Just one. I beg you.
Others though felt that Messi in an Argentina shirt was a mere shadow of the man who dazzles the world playing in Barcelona colors.
There was talk from one geneticist this week that he could actually clone Messi, but one Twitter user joked that Barcelona had already done that, sending out a copy for international duty.
If I was Argentina, I would investigate this thing. It seems like Barcelona made a Messi clone that they send for international games.— Inah (@inah7_) March 23, 2019
And while Messi has only just ended a nine-month self-imposed break from the team, others suggested it wouldn’t be too long before he quit the team again.
The signs are certainly worrying before the start of the Copa America this summer, where Argentina last tasted victory in 1993, since losing four finals, including where Messi has missed in a shootout.
Elsewhere on Friday, Messi's rival for generational greatness, Cristiano Ronaldo, also endured a frustrating return to international football as his Portugal team were held to a 0-0 draw by Ukraine in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Lisbon.
All-time top scorer Ronaldo, 34, was similarly returning to international action for the first time since the World Cup, but despite Portugal having 18 efforts on goal, they failed to break and obdurate Ukrainian defense.
Next up for the Portuguese are Serbia in another Group B qualifier in Lisbon On Monday.
Ronaldo will be hoping to add to his tally of 85 goals for the national team in that game.