Lionel Messi to make long-awaited Argentina return against Venezuela
Lionel Messi will make his return to international football in Argentina’s friendly against Venezuela in Madrid on Friday.
The Barcelona superstar has not pulled on his national team colours since Argentina’s loss to France in the last 16 of the World Cup in Russia last summer, but coach Lionel Scaloni confirmed on Thursday that he will win his 129th cap.
Whether Messi will also travel to Tangier for next week’s friendly against Morocco remains to be seen, with national team director Cesar Luis Menotti’s comments this week indicating he may not.
Speaking to Radio Gol, Menotti said: “It scares me that Messi plays. I see him emotionally fatigued between the Champions League and the national team. I see him very tired. He has a lot of obligations and with a lot of emotional baggage, a lot of responsibilities at his feet.”
Messi has been in exceptional form for Barcelona this season, scoring 39 goals in 37 matches, including six in his last three.
Scaloni told a press conference: “It is a joy that Messi returns. I have to try to have the team accompany him and ensure he has the best of himself. Hopefully with the return of Messi the team will be strengthened.”
Argentina are missing a number of big names, with Gonzalo Higuain dropped and Nicolas Otamendi and Angel Di Maria both having withdrawn through injury.
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero, meanwhile, has again not been selected, with question marks about his relationship with Scaloni.
Speaking about Aguero’s absence, Menotti backed Scaloni, saying: “The responsibility to decide who gets selected is that of the coach. I have the responsibility of debating, teaching and learning.
“When he showed me the list, I told him it looks good. Aguero now is doing brilliantly but five months ago he was on the bench.”
Scaloni took over initially on a temporary basis after the departure of Jorge Sampaoli last summer and has a contract until June.
Menotti added: “He’s evolving and he knows it. We have been very up front with him and I’m here to help. He signed a contract and, when the Copa America is over, a decision will be made.”
Venezuela drew their two matches against Argentina in World Cup qualifying but have won only once in 17 previous meetings, in 2011.
They will stay in Spain after the match to prepare for Monday’s clash with Catalona, who are set to field current Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and Xavi.