BARCELONA

The AFA will visit Barcelona to persuade Messi to return

The Head of the Argentine FA’s Normalization Committee Armando Perez hopes a face-to-face meeting will persuade him to reverse his decision to retire from international duty.

The AFA will visit Barcelona to persuade Messi to return
FERNANDO ZUERAS DIARIO AS

The stand-in Head of the Argentine Football Association (AFA) Armando Pérez has said on national radio that he plans to “speak with Messi this week and sit down face-to-face with him when he returns from holiday.”

The AFA is keen to find out exactly what it would take for Messi to go back on his decision to retire from international duty. Argentine football is mired in a sea of uncertainty. Following the resignation of Tata Martino after the Copa America final defeat to Chile last month, the manager’s seat remains vacant.

Leo Messi announced his international retirement after missing a penalty in Argentina's Copa America final loss to Chile.

One of the supposed frontrunners, Sao Paolo coach Edgardo Bauzá, has already said he will speak with Messi immediately if chosen. Yet all the signs point to Marcelo Bielsa a man who Messi holds in high regard: “I admire Bielsa for everything he did with Argentina, with Chile, with Athletic. I would have loved to have had him as a coach. They say he’s similar to Guardiola,” he once said. The feeling is mutual. “What happens to Messi’s opponents on the pitch is proportional to his quality. A player with so much talent will always cause opposing players incredible problems.” The two also have a connection in the city of Rosario. Messi began his footballing life at Newell’s Old Boys; Bielsa is idolised by the team’s fans and the club’s stadium was named after him in 2009.

Marcelo Bielsa has already managed the Argentine national team, between 1998 and 2004.

Messi announced his international retirement immediately after the Copa America final loss to Chile. Calls for him to reconsider both from within Argentina and around the world, have been widespread but the Barcelona star has kept quiet on his future. It’s likely that he won’t want to miss the World Cup in Russia in 2018, probably his last opportunity to play on international football’s biggest stage. But then again, nothing is predictable where Lionel Messi is concerned.