Lionel Messi insists he only ever had designs on playing international football for Argentina and was not tempted to represent Spain.
The Barcelona star has endured a mixed relationship with Argentina's support throughout his international career, with the fact he left home for Catalonia aged 13 sometimes used to argue he lacks true commitment to the cause.
Nevertheless, La Albiceleste are unquestionably indebted to their record goalscorer, whose sensational hat-trick against Ecuador last October salvaged qualification for Russia 2018.
"It would not have been the same - it never crossed my mind"
"The other day I was talking to a friend and he was saying, 'Look, if you had played for Spain, you would be world champion,'" Messi explained, having watched his Barça academy colleagues Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and Gerard Piqué lead a glorious era for La Roja.
"But it would not have been the same. Obviously, it never crossed my mind.
Messi suffered final heartbreak with Argentina in three consecutive years as Germany's extra-time win in the 2014 World Cup showpiece was followed by penalty shoot-out reverses against Chile in the Copa América in 2015 and 2016.
World Cup "a new opportunity" after previous tournament disappointments
Gonzalo Higuaín was made a scapegoat for those losses in some quarters following a string of high-profile misses, but Messi reported the Juventus striker is in high spirits ahead of this summer's tournament.
"He is very relaxed, aware of what is coming, he is very involved," he added. "He said a great truth - it is a new opportunity, more than a rematch.
"This group got too much criticism. We reached three finals, but we received a lot of criticism. We became stronger than ever."