Lionel Messi has been named in Argentina’s squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers hours after reversing his decision to retire from international football.
The Barcelona playmaker announced on Friday night he loves Argentina “too much” to walk away from the national team, having previously announced his Albiceleste career was over following their penalty shoot-out loss to Chile in the Copa America final in June.
Following talks with new Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza, Messi’s name was included in the squad to face Uruguay and Venezuela next month.
Messi, Argentina’s captain and all-time record goalscorer with 55 goals, said in a statement reproduced by Argentinian newspaper La Nacion: “I see there are many problems in Argentinian football and I don’t intend to create another one.
“I don’t want to cause any damage, I’ve always tried to do just the opposite, to help all that I can.
“We need to fix many things in Argentinian football, but I prefer to do this from inside and not criticise from outside.”
Messi said he was quitting international football after missing a penalty in the Copa America final shoot-out at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA.
That would have left Messi – one of the most decorated players in history at club level with Barca – having never won a major trophy with Argentina.
As well as June’s defeat to Chile, the reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or also tasted defeat in the 2007 and 2015 Copa America finals, as well as the World Cup final in 2014.
He added: “Many things went through my head the day of the last final and I seriously thought of leaving, but I love this country and this shirt too much.
“I’m grateful to all the people who wanted me to continue playing with Argentina, hopefully we can give them something to cheer about soon.”
Argentina face Uruguay at home on September 1 and Venezuela away on September 6.
The squad also featured Manchester City trio Sergio Aguero, Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi, Manchester United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo plus Ramiro Funes Mori of Everton.
Tottenham’s Erik Lamela made it seven Premier League players in total in the Argentina group, with Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Javier Mascherano also among the 27-man squad.