Messi returns to Argentina squad for first time since 2018 World Cup

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The Barcelona superstar ruled himself out of contention on the back of a disappointing campaign in Russia, but is now back in the international fold

Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has returned to the Argentina squad for the first time since the 2018 World Cup.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner ruled himself out of contention on the back of a disappointing campaign in Russia.

Goal, though, revealed in January that he was preparing to step back into the fold.

That decision has now been taken and he is available for selection in friendly dates with Venezuela and Morocco.  

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni had said in December of a possible recall: "I do not talk very often with Messi, but we have a relationship.

"We are going to try for him to join us in 2019, we have pending talks and we are optimistic that it will be positive.

“For us it is something important. Any coach would like to coach him, myself more than any."

Those talks have delivered the result that everybody in Argentina was hoping for.

The Albiceleste were always confident that a talismanic figure would make himself available again.

Diego Maradona was among those to boldly claim that the 31-year-old would not stay away for long.

His prediction has proved correct, with another all-time great ready to represent his country.

Messi had stepped aside after seeing Argentina crash out of the World Cup at the last-16 stage.

They were sent packing by eventual champions France, but a success-starved nation had been hoping for much more.

Messi skippered the side and netted a stunning goal in a group stage clash with Nigeria which sent his side into the knockout rounds, but that was to be as good as it got.

He now has the chance to chase more silverware after returning to the squad.

Argentina are set to face Venezuela at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on March 23.

Three days later, they will take on Morocco in Tangier.

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Those fixtures will form part of the build-up to the 2019 Copa America for the Albiceleste.

That competition is due to be staged in Brazil this summer, where they will face Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in Group B with Messi still chasing down the first title of his senior international career.

While waiting on major honours, he has collected 128 caps to date and netted 65 goals.

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