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SOCCER

Thiago Almada dreaming of Olympics meet-up with Lionel Messi

The Atlanta United forward has helped Argentina to the summer tournament in France and is hoping that Messi will join La Albiceleste’s squad.

Update:
Will Messi go to the Olympics?

Argentina’s Under-23 side beat rivals Brazil on Sunday to clinch their place in the soccer competition at this year’s Olympic Games in Paris.

La Albiceleste are world champions but the Olympics competition features age restrictions, with only three players older than 23 allowed in the squad. Atlanta United star Thiago Almada is the current captain of Argentina’s strong U-23 team but he is hoping for reinforcements ahead of the summer tournament.

He told Dsports: “I hope Messi has the desire and can be at the Olympic games, it would be a dream. If Messi comes, I’ll give him the captain’s armband, obviously. Now they are the ones who have to decide if they come.”

Almada was a member of the Argentina squad that triumphed in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He is the key player for Javier Mascherano’s U-23 team and has been the subject of interest from European clubs.

Javier Mascherano wants Lionel Messi at the Olympics

The U-23 coach, Mascherano, played alongside Messi in the national team for more than a decade and maintains a close relationship with the Inter Miami star. After his side secured qualification to the Olympic Games Mascherano said that he wants Messi in the squad, but admitted that it would be difficult.

“Everyone already knows my relationship with Leo [Messi], the friendship I have,” Mascherano told reporters. “A player like him has the doors open to accompany us [at the Olympic Games]. Then it will obviously depend on him and his commitments.”

Both Messi and Mascherano were a part of the Argentinian side that won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Sixteen years on, they could reunite as player and coach to compete at the Olympics once more.

Can Lionel Messi play in the Olympics?

The soccer competition at the Olympic Games limits the number of players aged older than 23 to three per squad, meaning that Messi would have to take up one of those over-age spots. Mascherano has made clear that he would welcome Messi to the team, but can Messi make time in his busy calendar?

At this stage, it seems unlikely. Inter Miami have a busy fixture list with the addition of the CONCACAF Champions League for the first time in franchise history.

This summer is complicated by the Copa América, which Messi’s Argentina will be competing in. The pan-continental tournament will be held in the United States from June 20 - July 14, a period that spans six Inter Miami games.

The Olympics starts in France just two weeks later, meaning that Messi would likely have to miss a large chunk of Miami’s summer fixtures if he were to add the Olympics onto his Copa América absence.

Throughout his career Messi has been committed to Argentina and continued to feature for the national side throughout 2023, even missing some Inter Miami fixtures to travel to South America for World Cup qualifiers. This time, however, it looks like Messi will miss out on the opportunity to add more silverware with his country.