The status of Lionel Messi in the Olympics is still unclear, but the boss of the Argentina U-23 side has informed the star that his presence is welcome. Javier Mascherano, a former teammate of Messi’s at both Barcelona and Argentina, is the youth side’s head coach. Messi would be eligible to play in the competition, as each team can bring three players over the age of 23. Argentina clinched a spot in Paris this summer after defeating the reigning gold medalist, Brazil, in a CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic qualifier. Argentina qualified alongside Paraguay.
Before qualifying, Javier Mascherano clarified that Messi has the freedom to join the Argentina national team at any time if that is what he pleases.
“Leo has an open door to the national team to do whatever he wishes—that’s the reality,” Mascherano said. “If we end up qualifying and he wants to go, he will be welcome. My relationship with him is that of a great friendship and I would love it.”
Now that Argentina has a spot guaranteed among the 16 teams competing, Argentina awaits a decision from its star. Messi has not commented on what his availability would be for that tournament in August 2024. However, he did take to social media to celebrate Argentina’s success. He posted a picture on his Instagram story of Argentina celebrating qualification, and Messi said ‘Vamos!’
Would Messi play in the Olympics?
For years, Messi has had a preference to play for the national team over his club sides. At times, he looked disinterested playing for PSG, but then he looked like the best player in the world when he wore the sky blue and white of Argentina at the World Cup. When he joined Inter Miami, he went away for CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with Argentina. He picked up an injury in the Fall of 2023 that impacted his availability for Inter Miami as it made a late push for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
However, the Olympics is largely a youth competition. There are only three players over the age of 23 allowed for each team at the Olympics, and having Messi would be a major boost for Mascherano’s side. However, there are several key considerations. The forefront of Messi’s mind should be his health. The Olympics in Paris kick off soon after the 2024 Copa America in the United States. Messi will play in that competition this summer as Argentina looks to defend its title. Having back-to-back tournaments will be a major challenge for Messi, who will be 37 this summer.
Also, Messi has already won the Olympics with Argentina. He won the competition in 2008 when he was 21 years old. For years, he cherished that as his biggest accomplishment with the Argentina national team. Success at the Copa America and World Cup in quick succession changed that. Adding another Olympic Gold Medal may not be overly important for the Argentine.
Missing Miami games
Likewise, Lionel Messi has already won the Leagues Cup. The competition involving all MLS and Liga MX teams happens at the same time as the Olympics. If Messi were to go to France to compete, he would be unavailable for Inter Miami’s title defense. In the same way the star may not care about the Olympics, he may not have the desire to win the Leagues Cup. That would open the door to play in one of his last international competitions with Argentina.
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