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Messi & Aguero friendship could ensure Barcelona star's Camp Nou stay

08:00 BST 03/06/2021
Lionel Messi Sergio Aguero Barcelona GFX
The new Blaugrana signing expressed his wish to play alongside Leo in Catalunya, but first their attentions turn to a packed international schedule

The friendship between Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero started in rather inauspicious circumstances.

In a story which has been repeated on many occasions, including by the players themselves, the pair met as virtual strangers when they received a call-up for the 2005 Under-20 World Cup, with the 18-year-old Messi an enigma for Kun and his Argentina-based team-mates who had little idea of his early exploits in Barcelona.

But the two teenage stars quickly clicked, taking that title for Argentina and cementing a bond which has survived for the best part of two decades.

Whether they are on the same side for the Albiceleste, where they have been room-mates for almost all of the nation's World Cup and Copa America campaigns; or going head-to-head, like when Aguero was starring for Atletico Madrid before his move to Manchester City, they have always been close.

It was no surprise, then, to see Barca move for the forward as the ultimate ace in the hole to convince Messi to stay put at Camp Nou.

"We hope to play together, but we've been negotiating for some time," Aguero told reporters upon being presented as Barca's latest signing.

"But they are his decisions with the club. It's a pleasure and I'm proud to play together, I lived with him and know him quite well.

"I think that yes, he will stay. I talk to him every day, but I can't say what we talk about. He congratulated me.

"I've known him since I was a boy, training with him every day... In the national team, it's only sometimes; here, every day."

Kun's presence, though, may prove more useful in the dressing room than on the pitch itself, as Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni seemed to hint with his first international starting line-up of 2021 on Wednesday.

It was Lautaro Martinez, not Aguero, who was picked to lead the line alongside Messi for Thursday's World Cup qualifier against Chile. That decision, of course, comes as no surprise.

The new Barca signing arrived in Buenos Aires barely 48 hours before the match due to City's Champions League final commitments and his hasty transfer presentation at Camp Nou, meaning that he was never likely to be risked for a vital match on the road to Qatar 2022.

Still, it is equally clear that right now Lautaro is Scaloni's preferred choice at centre-forward. Thanks to his current form and, no less importantly, the brilliant partnership he has instantly struck with Messi.

Despite their off-pitch bond, Messi and Aguero have never quite convinced at the forefront of the Argentina attack. In the six major tournaments they disputed together prior to the 2019 Copa America – three World Cups and three Copas – the pair scored just five knockout goals between them.

The Inter star, meanwhile, has struck up an instant understanding with Leo and already boasts 11 international goals, including two at the 2019 Copa.

Little wonder, then, that he, and not Aguero, was Barcelona's top priority to replace Luis Suarez before it became clear that the club's precarious financial situation would not allow such a blockbuster transfer, receiving the seal of approval from none other than his illustrious compatriot.

“Lautaro is a spectacular forward, he has great talent,” Messi told Mundo Deportivo in 2020 amid widespread reports that a deal was imminent.

“I wish everybody could come and fight for titles and the Champions League. Lautaro has much in common with Luis [Suarez]: both work very well with their body. He holds up the ball, when he pauses, in front of goal they have a lot in common.”

That is not to say that Aguero will struggle at Camp Nou. Discounting this past, injury-ravaged season, the 33-year-old's record in front of goal matches up to any elite striker in world football, and the mere fact of having another proven scorer alongside him will take a lot of pressure off Messi's shoulders.

In the coming weeks, too, while he may not be starting every game for Argentina, a fit Kun should prove a valuable asset coming off the bench in the World Cup qualifiers and the subsequent Copa America, one that could make the difference in the final minutes when it most counts.

But he is not the player Barca most wanted, or needed. That man will be lining up with Messi on Thursday and probably throughout June and July as the No.10 chases that elusive first international title as captain of an Argentina side which, aside from the Blaugrana pair and Angel Di Maria, has undergone an almost complete transformation from the disappointment of Russia 2018.

Even if the only positive of Aguero's arrival turns out to be securing the future of Leo at Barcelona, however, the club will most likely still feel they have earned a resounding victory from this opportunistic deal.