The Barcelona forward said he would not play for Argentina again after the team lost to Chile in the final of the Copa América Centenario in the United States.
However, in a statement yesterday, Messi explained that he wanted to continue representing his country as he preferred “to help from within.”
“I consider that there are a lot of problems in Argentine soccer and it’s not my intention to create another one,” the 29-year-old said. “There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved in Argentine soccer but I prefer to help from within and not to criticize from the outside.”
“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,” the Barcelona star added.
A few hours later, Messi was named in new coach Edgardo Bauza’s squad to face Uruguay and Venezuela in 2018 World Cup South American qualifiers to be held in the first week of September.
Bauza, who replaced Gerardo Martino after he quit in July over the FA’s failure to prepare a strong under-23 team for the Rio Olympics, was in Barcelona on Thursday for a meeting with his team captain.
Bauza included two uncapped strikers in a 27-man squad, Lucas Alario of River Plate and Lucas Pratto of Brazil’s Atlético Mineiro.
He surprisingly omitted Gonzalo Higuaín, a player he praised at the beginning of the month for his club form in Italy but who missed chances in Argentina’s last three final defeats.
Apparently, Higuaín asked the coach to miss these two matches as he recently joined Juventus and wants recover his form with his new club.
Juventus signed the Argentina striker for 90 million euros (75.25 million pounds), the third highest fee ever paid. Higuaín scored 36 goals in Serie A last season with Napoli to break Gunnar Nordahl’s 66-year-old record for the most top flight goals in Italy in a single campaign.
Messi, who has scored a national record 55 goals in 113 appearances, has lost four major finals with Argentina, three in the last two years including the 2014 World Cup final to Germany in Brazil.
The June reverse in New Jersey was the second successive Copa América penalty shootout defeat by Chile in 12 months.
Messi, unhappy with the Argentine FA’s running of the team, planned to speak out after the Copa final, but felt he could not after they were beaten.
His return will be a relief for the FA, mired in an economic and management crisis and administered by a normalizing commission appointed by world soccer’s governing body FIFA.
“I send my thanks to all who want me to continue playing for Argentina, I hope we’ll be able to give them something to cheer about soon,” Messi said.
Argentina is third in the 10-nation South American qualifying group with 11 points from six matches, two behind Uruguay and Ecuador.
The top four after 18 games advance to the Russia finals while the fifth-placed team goes into an intercontinental playoff for one more berth.
The Argentina squad is: goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (Manchester United), Mariano Andújar (Estudiantes), Nahuel Guzmán (UANL Tigres); defenders: Facundo Roncaglia (Celta de Vigo), Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal), Ramiro Funes Mori (Everton), Emmanuel Mas (San Lorenzo), Marcos Rojo (Manchester United), Martín Demichelis (Espanyol), Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolás Otamendi (both Manchester City) and Gabriel Mercado (Sevilla); midfielders: Matías Kranevitter (Sevilla), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Lucas Biglia (Lazio), Augusto Fernández, Nicolás Gaitán (both Atlético Madrid), Éver Banega (Inter Milan), Javier Pastore, Ángel Di María (both Paris St Germain) and Erik Lamela (Tottenham Hotspur); forwards: Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Ángel Correa (Atlético Madrid), Lucas Pratto (Atlético Mineiro), Sergio Agüero (Manchester City), Paulo Dybala (Juventus) and Lucas Alario (River Plate).
Herald with Reuters