Lionel Messi has hinted that he could return to finish his career in Argentina as his bond with his home country remains strong even after the criticism he has faced when the national side have failed at World Cups.
Messi, 25, famously left his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys to join Barcelona’s La Masia youth system aged just 13, after the Catalan club offered to pay for the medical treatment he then required. He has since played all his club football for the Camp Nou side and in February he extended his Barca contract, tying him to La Liga for another five years.
The four-time Ballon d'Or winner told Argentine TV channel TyC Sports that ideally he would return to live in Argentina when his son Thiago, who was born last November, is ready to begin school.
“I would like to return to live in Rosario,” Messi said. “I do not know what will happen. My son will surely begin school there, then I do not know what will happen. I love it there. I have been a long time in Barcelona, and my home is here, but I always want to return home.”
Messi said that the criticism from both fans and media back in his home country over the years, such as saying he was not proud of his country as he did not sing the national anthem before games, had been out of order.
“What they said seemed stupid to me,” he said. “Then I did not sing, it was because I was angry. So many bad things, ugly things, happened with the national team that I heard everything there is to hear. Even from people who today speak well. I knew I was not performing well for Argentina, but I was not the only one. The team were not doing well and some people wanted me to go out and win games on my own. Things were said that had nothing to do with playing well or badly, things outside football. I cried more than once, in 2006 and 2010, when we did not achieve our goals [at those World Cups].”
La Pulga said his relationship with former national team manager Diego Maradona was nonetheless good, and remembered fondly seeing Maradona play a club game in Argentina in the early 1990s.
“I saw Maradona recently, it was after we lost in Madrid [in La Liga on March 2],” Messi said. “I was feeling bad as we had lost, because I had missed a chance, but seeing him cheered me up a lot. I remember seeing him live, in Newell’s ground, when I was six years old. When he was national coach we got even closer.”