Lionel messi, copa america argentina.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JASON SZENES

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.

Latest news

Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom protections

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance about the use of school and university bathrooms by transgender students, local media reported.

Several Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested as deadline passes

Several people at a camp protesting against a controversial oil pipeline in the US state of North Dakota were arrested Wednesday after a deadline to vacate the land passed, local media reported.

Germany deports 18 rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

A Kabul-bound plane with 18 Afghan migrants on board took off from Munich Airport late Wednesday, its passengers becoming the third group of rejected asylum seekers to be deported by German authorities back to Afghanistan.

New Romanian justice minister named after anti-corruption protests

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has named a former judge to be the country's next justice minister, after the previous office holder resigned under pressure from mass anti-corruption protests.

Le Pen's chief of staff indicted in European Parliament jobs probe

The chief of staff of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president in upcoming French elections, was indicted Wednesday over allegations of irregular reimbursements from the European Parliament, a judicial source told dpa.

Montenegrin police extradites Miodrag Jovic to Croatia

Montenegrin police reported on Wednesday that they extradited to Croatia Miodrag Jovic (48) from Glina, after whom Interpol Zagreb issued an arrest warrant.

Croatian minister attends CoMoCoSEE conference in Albania

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek participated in a third conference of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe (CoMoCoSEE) that took place in Tirana on February 21-22.

New Somali president asks al-Shabaab to surrender to 'help' country

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab to surrender in order "to help rebuild" the conflict-ridden East African nation.

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.