Messi changes mind, will play again for Argentina

Superstar footballer Lionel Messi has changed his mind and will return to play for the Argentinian national team, various reports said Friday.

Messi announced his retirement from the Albiceleste after Argentina lost the final of the Copa America at the end of June. But reports quoted him as saying he's returning "because I love my country and this jersey too much."

That means the 29-year-old Messi could be back on the pitch as captain for Argentina in the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Uruguay on September 1.

Messi said there were enough problems already in Argentinian football, adding: "I don't want to cause more."

One of the biggest reasons for the change of heart is new Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza, who travelled to Barcelona to meet with the five-time Footballer of the Year and try to convince him to come back.

Even before Messi announced his return, Bauza said he has no doubts the star would say yes.

That means the 29-year-old Messi could be back on the pitch as captain for Argentina against Uruguay on September 1 in Mendoza.

Argentina travel to Venezuela for the next qualifier five days later. The Albiceleste are currently third in the South American qualifying group behind Uruguay and Ecuador.

Messi's announcement resulted in a collective sigh of relief throughout the country. The news has dominated the coverage of the Rio Olympics in the Argentinian sports newspaper Ole.

Messi's decision to retire caused shockwaves all the way up to the highest political circles. Argentina President Mauricio Macri supported the Twitter hashtag #NoTeVayasLio ("Don't go, Lio") and wrote: "I hope the pleasure of watching the best in the world continues for many years."

Before moving into politics, Macri was the president of Argentina's most popular football club Boca Juniors.

Argentinians for a long time did not like that Messi had never played professionally in Argentina, starring from the beginning for Barcelona in Spain. But he played into the hearts of his compatriots, who suffered with him in late June when they lost the final of the Copa America to Chile again. Messi even missed the decisive penalty in the final in New Jersey.

It was the second straight Copa America that Argentina lost to Chile in the final. And Messi's team lost in the 2014 World Cup final to Germany in Brazil. Germany beat Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World Cups in 2006 and 2010 as well.

Messi's 113th cap was supposed to be his last.

"I worked hard. A title for the national team is that what I wanted the most. But it wasn't meant to be. Now it's over with," Messi said at his retirement.

But the 2005 junior world champion and 2008 Olympic gold medallist has now changed his mind. And he can continue to do what he loves - playing football for Argentina.

Last update: Fri, 12/08/2016 - 22:53
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