Lionel Messi Returns to Argentina Squad for 1st Time Since 2018 World Cup

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIMarch 7, 2019

Argentina's Lionel Messi stands on the pitch during the round of 16 match between France and Argentina, at the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia, Saturday, June 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has been called up to the Argentina squad for the first time since the 2018 FIFA World Cup:

B/R Football @brfootball

OFFICIAL: Leo Messi returns to the Argentina squad for this month's international friendlies 🇦🇷 https://t.co/YfDiS3ofNQ

The forward opted to take a break from international football after La Albiceleste's disappointing showing in Russia, where they were knocked out in the last 16 of the tournament by France.

However, Messi has now returned to the squad for March friendlies against Venezuela and Morocco:

Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 @Argentina

#SelecciónMayor Ésta es la lista de futbolistas convocados por el entrenador Lionel Scaloni para los próximos amistosos de la @Argentina. https://t.co/a16vUSMQSJ

Argentina play Venezuela at Atletico Madrid's Wanda Metropolitano stadium on March 22 and then face Morocco in Tangier four days later.

Messi is expected to play the first match in Madrid but will not travel to Morocco, according to Tyc Sports (h/t AS Argentina via AS).

Argentina have lost only once in six matches since the World Cup, but the return of their talisman will still be a big boost.

Squawka Football highlighted Messi's international record:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Lionel Messi for Argentina: ⚽️ Most goals (65) 👕 Third-most appearances (128) A welcomed return to La Albiceleste. https://t.co/KjIVaHY4tp

The squad does contain some high-profile absentees. Manager Lionel Scaloni has omitted strikers Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Mauro Icardi from his latest squad.

Messi has been in sensational form once again for Barcelona this season. The Argentine has 33 goals in all competitions for Ernesto Valverde's side and has also contributed 12 assists:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

RT 🔁 if you were alive to watch Leo Messi play football. https://t.co/zTvgKwpews

Argentina will use March's friendly matches to prepare for the 2019 Copa America tournament. La Albiceleste have been drawn in Group B and will take on Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in Brazil.

The tournament is one of the few trophies Messi is still yet to lift in his glittering career, and he's been unable to deliver success for Argentina despite being part of a squad packed full of talent.

The Barcelona star has been a losing finalist in the Copa America three times, but Argentina will be hoping he can inspire his team to victory this summer.