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For the love of his country, Lionel Messi has reconsidered his decision to quit international soccer and will continue playing for Argentina’s national team.
Messi said Friday that he is returning despite “a lot of problems” involving the country’s federation, which is mired in financial chaos and under FIFA intervention.
“There are a lot of issues that need to be resolved in Argentine football, but I prefer to help from within and not criticize from the outside,” Messi said. “I don’t want to cause any harm, I’ve always tried to do the exact opposite and help out in whatever way possible.”
Messi said he was done with the national team after Argentina lost to Chile in the Copa America final in June, when the Barcelona playmaker missed a penalty kick in the decisive shootout.
“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,” Messi said in a statement released by his managers.
Messi was clearly frustrated as Argentina missed yet another chance to win a significant title. Although the 29-year-old Messi has won virtually everything with Barcelona, he has failed to lead the national team to victory in a major competition. His only trophy with Argentina came with the under-23 team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Messi and Argentina also lost to Chile in a penalty shootout in the final of last year’s Copa America. They lost to Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final and to Germany in extra time in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil.
“It’s been four finals, it’s not meant for me,” Messi said after this year’s defeat. “The national team is over for me.”
Messi was also upset with the internal crisis involving the Argentine Football Association, which has been facing governance problems and claims of financial corruption and mismanagement. Coach Gerardo Martino also resigned after the Copa America and the nation had trouble sending an under—23 squad for the Olympic tournament in Brazil. Argentina’s youngsters didn’t make past the group stage at the Rio Games.
A record five-time world player of the year, Messi hadn’t talked publicly after shocking Argentina and the rest of the world with his unexpected resignation. Many people back home were urging him to reconsider his decision and return to play at least until the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Newly appointed Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza, who traveled to Barcelona to try to convince Messi to return to the national team, included Messi for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay on Sept. 1 and Venezuela on Sept. 6. Argentina is third in the South American qualifying group, behind Ecuador and leader Uruguay after six matches.
Messi thanked those who wanted him “to continue playing for Argentina.”
“I hope that we’ll be able to give them something to cheer about soon,” he said.