Messi Would Swap Barcelona Titles for World Cup

Lionel Messi is so desperate to win the World Cup with Argentina that he would trade success with Barcelona to triumph in Russia this summer.

Messi, 30, has been on the losing side in four finals with Argentina, including the World Cup final in 2014 against Germany in Brazil.

Titles with Barca have not been so hard to come by. Messi has won 32 trophies since making his first-team debut, including a domestic double this season.

However, he says he would be willing to forgo another title with the Catalan club if it meant he could finally get his hands on the World Cup trophy.

“Winning the World Cup is a huge personal challenge for me, for the group [of players Argentina have] and for the country, who have the same dreams as us,” he told El Trece. “It’s a nice responsibility to represent a whole country at a World Cup.

“I would swap a title with Barcelona for one with the national team. While I want to win things again with my club, I want to win something with the national team.

“I know it would be special for what it means, to be [world] champions with Argentina would be different to everything, it would be something unique.”

Since an extra-time defeat to Germany four years in the World Cup final, Argentina have lost two Copa America finals, too, both times on penalties against Chile.

The Albiceleste struggled to hit the heights which carried them to three successive finals in qualifying for this summer’s World Cup, though, needing a Messi hat trick to beat Ecuador as they booked their place in Russia in their final match.

Their poor performance in qualifying, coupled with a 6-1 defeat to Spain in March, mean they are not among the outright favourites going into the finals.

Argentina have been drawn in Group D with Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland for the 2018 World Cup, to start on June 14.

“We have a really complicated draw,” Messi added. “Iceland showed they can compete with anyone at the [European Championships in 2016], Croatia have a great midfield and it’s always tough for us against Nigeria.

“I have a lot of faith in this group, though. We’re working well, we have players with ability and experience, but we have to take things slowly. We don’t want to send the message ‘We’re going to win the World Cup because we’re the best…’ because the reality is we aren’t.

“There are various favourites at the moment. Brazil are one. Spain, Germany… they’re some of the best teams right now.”

Messi, who joined Barca as a 13-year-old, would have already won a World Cup if he defected to Spain as a teenager.

“A friend of mine told me that I’d now be a world champion already if I’d played for Spain, but it wouldn’t have been the same,” he said.

“Being a champion with Argentina would be something unique. I was 16 years old and, half in jest and half serious, the coach of the Under-17s put it to me [playing for Spain].

“It happened in Finland and Cesc [Fabregas] was my teammate at the time. That’s where it all stems from, but at no time did the thought or any doubts cross my mind.”

Messi, who has spent his whole senior career with Barca, scoring 552 goals, has been linked with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the past.

The 30-year-old suggested that he could return to his homeland in Argentina to play for Newell’s Old Boys.

“I always said I wanted to play in Argentine football one day,” Messi said.

“I don’t know if it will happen but I have it in my mind. It would be at Newell’s, nowhere else. I would like to do that for at least six months, but you never know what will happen.

“I’m increasingly sure that in Europe, Barcelona will be my only club.”

Messi started out at Newell’s Old Boys before joining Barcelona aged 13. He signed a new deal with Barcelona last November which runs until 2021 and has a buyout clause of 700m euros (£612m).

 

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