Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi will return to play for his national team because of “love” for his country.
Messi, 29, quit – out of frustration – after Argentina’s Copa America final defeat by Chile in June. It was indeed a second successive finals defeat to their rivals in three years.
Messi had missed his own kick in the penalty shootout defeat as Argentina lost a fourth major final in nine years.
It became practically an affair of state when the country’s number one citizen Mauricio Macri appealed to him to have a change of mind.
However, in a statement reported by the media in his home nation, the Barcelona striker said he made the U-turn for the “love of the country” and “to help from within“.
Consequently, he has been named in Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers squad to face Uruguay and Venezuela at the beginning of September.
“A lot of things went through my mind on the night of the final and I gave serious thought to quitting, but my love for my country and this shirt is too great,” Argentina’s all-time record goalscorer is reported as saying.
“We need to fix many things in Argentinian football, but I prefer to do this from inside and not criticize from outside.”
Messi’s only major international honour is Olympic gold at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
As well as losing two Copa America finals on penalties to Chile, he was in the Argentina side beaten 1-0 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.
The forward, who was been awarded the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player five times, was also on the losing side against Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final.
Following new coach Edgardo Bauza’s meeting with Messi in Barcelona this week to convince him to rejoin the squad, the talisman has been named in the squad alongside Man City trio of Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi, Man United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo and Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton.
Tottenham’s Erik Lamela made it seven Premier League players in total, with Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano also among the 27-man squad.