Argentina president Mauricio Macri said he is certain that Lionel Messi will return to the Albiceleste before the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Messi made the shock decision to retire from international football following the penalty shootout loss to Chile in this summer’s Copa America final, Argentina’s third successive defeat in a major tournament final.
New national coach Edgardo Bauza said this week it was his immediate priority to convince the five time Ballon d’Or winner to reverse this decision. He plans to travel to Europe soon to convince Messi to come back for September’s World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela.
Argentine paper Ole on Friday claimed that Messi will accept Bauza’s request and the situation will be cleared up quickly.
Macri agreed, telling ESPN in Rio de Janeiro that he didn’t know whether the Barcelona star would return in time for Argentina’s Sept. 1 World Cup qualifier against Uruguay, but had faith that he would return in time for the “next FIFA date” in October.
“He is going to lead our team in Russia and at that World Cup we are again going to be among the best,” Macri said. “I think Messi is the greatest player we have ever had and we must show him our appreciation and give him the recognition he deserves in order to feel comfortable.”
The Argentina president, who is in Brazil for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, said that he called Messi after the team lost in the Copa America Centenario final.
“I spoke with Messi to thank him and to congratulate him,” Macri said. “He did everything that he could, but sometimes, things just don’t come together. In three straight championships, we have not lost a single match, that is just crazy. We just haven’t had that little spark of luck that we need to win. We have the best player in the world and five, six or seven who go well together. We must enjoy this team, success has been working against us.”
The former Boca president and former mayor of Buenos Aires said he was pleased with the choice of Edgardo Bauza as national team coach.
He echoed comments he made last month about his trust in Messi’s return.
Bauza has said he felt Messi’s comments about retirement after the Copa America Centenario loss were made in anger and haste. He told reporters he is convinced Messi will change his mind.
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