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Has Messi ever faced an Argentine team since leaving his homeland?

Messi left his home country in 2001. How many times has he played against Argentinean teams since then?

Messi left his home country in 2001. How many times has he played against Argentinean teams since then?
David RamosGetty Images

Reports that Inter Miami are plotting a preseason friendly with Lionel Messi’s first club Newell’s Old Boys has generated feelings of frenzy in southern Florida and in Argentina, the country he left when barely a teenager, for Barcelona, where he would go on to become one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

Since then, apart from personal visits, Messi has only returned to his homeland for his commitments with the national team. He joined Newell’s as a six-year-old and spent close to five years making his way up the youth categories before he was lured to Europe by Barça in February 2001.

During his 17 seasons in the first team at Barça, and the two seasons he spent at PSG, in 853 appearances, Messi played against - and scored against, practically every top flight Spanish team and all of the major European clubs.

But being based in Europe, there were few chances to play against clubs from other confederations. The only occasions when Messi could have found himself playing against teams from South America would be either in the Club World Cup or a friendly. Leo has done both.

Messi scores against Estudiantes
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Messi scores against EstudiantesENRIC FONTCUBERTADiarioAS

How many times did Messi play against Argentinean teams for Barca and PSG?

Messi has faced Argentine clubs twice in official competition, both times in the Club World Cup final. A metatarsal fracture meant he sat out the 2006 edition but Barcelona were back in the tournament as European champions, with Messi, three years later in 2009. Estudiantes de la Plata were the rivals in the final - one which Guardiola’s side came within a whisker of losing. Pedro’s last-gasp equaliser took it into extra-time when up popped Leo to nod in the winner, making Barça the first club to win a clean sweep of six trophies in one season.

The Catalans returned to contest the trophy in 2011 and again in 2015, facing another Argentine team in the final once again. River Plate were the rivals in Yokohama in a game which had none of the tension of the 2009 final. Messi put Barça ahead on 36 minutes with a close-range finish and Luis Suárez added a couple more after the break.

Messi also crossed paths with rivals from his home country in unofficial competition. He wasn’t available for the 2008 Trofeo Gamper against Boca Juniors as he had more important things to attend to - winning the gold medal with Argentina’s Under-23s at the Beijing Olympics.

However Boca were invited again a decade later and this time Messi was available. And as always, he found the target - scoring the team’s second goal in the 3-0 win (Malcom and Rafinha were the other scorers).

To summarize, Messi has played against Argentine club three times since leaving his homeland and scored in all three of those games. Next up could be his beloved Newell’s, in a friendly at the start of 2024 - in what would be a highly emotional re-encounter for him. Considering his strike rate against Argentinean opposition, makes you wonder how he would feel if he happened to put one past his boyhood team…