Argentina star Lionel Messi shocked the sporting world in June this year when he suddenly announced his retirement from international football. The decision came after his side lost the Copa America Centenario final to Chile in a penalty shootout with him failing to convert from the spot.
But Argentine football received a huge boost when new coach Edgardo Bauza announced in August that Messi will be coming out of retirement and he will make his return against historical rivals Uruguay in Mendoza during the South American 2018 World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.
On the eve of his return for Argentina, here’s a look at the top five moments of Lionel Messi’s international career –
First international goal (2006)
Lionel Messi had a disastrous start to his international career as he was sent off after 65 minutes during a friendly against Hungary in 2005. But he was able to make up for that shaky start and in 2006, he scored his first international goal in a 3-2 defeat to Croatia. He also registered his first assist for Argentina in the same match when he provided the pass for Carlos Tevez to score his team’s opener.
Beijing Olympics Gold medal (2008)
Lionel Messi was almost not a part of Argentina’s 2008 Olympics squad due to Barcelona’s policies, but interference from manager Pep Guardiola saw him travel with his side to produce one of the best nights in his career. Messi scored twice in the tournament and he also played a major role in setting up the goal that proved the winner in the final. Thanks to his performance, Argentina won a historic gold medal and Messi was singled out by Fifa as the stand-out player from the Team of the Tournament.
Receiving the captain’s armband (2011)
In 2011, Argentine football saw a major shift as Alejandro Sabella took charge of the national team from long-time youth coach Sergio Batista. The first thing Sabella did was hand over the captain’s armband to the team’s best player Lionel Messi from veteran Javier Mascherano and the rest is history. Messi captained the national side to two Copa America finals and a World Cup final, but unfortunately his side failed to win any title under his leadership.
Winning the World Cup Golden Ball (2014)
Messi entered the 2014 Fifa World Cup with many experts doubting his form, but the Argentine maestro proved them all wrong by winning four consecutive man-of-the-match awards. With four goals and an assist to his name, Messi guided his team to the final where they were defeated by Germany thanks to an extra-time goal. But Messi’s genius established him as one of the most dominant players in the world and he was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player of the tournament.
Becoming Argentina’s all-time top goal-scorer (2016)
This is the possibly one of the few good moments for Lionel Messi in the 2016 Copa America Centenario. The Barcelona forward’s goal against USA in the semi-final of the competition was enough to beat Gabriel Batistuta’s tally of 54 goals and as a result, he became the all-time leading goal-scorer for Argentina. Messi currently has 55 international goals to his name and he will have the chance to add to his tally when he takes to the pitch against Uruguay on Thursday.