Lionel Messi reiterates desire to return to Argentina after Barcelona stint
Barcelona star Lionel Messi has told Sports Illustrated that he wants to return to his native Argentina in the future and spoke of his desire to lead the nation to success at this summer's Copa America.
Messi left his home city of Rosario to join Barcelona aged just 13 as the Catalan club were prepared to pay for the $900-a-month hormone treatment he needed to grow sufficiently to become a professional player.
The Argentina captain, 29, said in a short film about his development made by Sports Illustrated that he wanted one day to experience what life was really like in his home city.
"One day I would like to return to my country," he said. "I was so small when I left, I would like to properly enjoy Rosario, my city, with my people."
Speaking about the move to Catalonia, Messi said there had been mixed feelings at the time.
"It was a difficult time," he said. "In one way it was positive, as to come and live and play in Barcelona was something spectacular, but it was also difficult. I left everything behind, my friends, many of my family, to come to a country and start from zero. It was very difficult."
Shown images of the playing fields from his childhood days in Rosario, Messi said: "I can remember when I was very small playing there, enjoying myself so much, on the pitches where my brothers and family also played.
"That's when I was around five or six years old. Those days were special for me."
Despite his successes with Barcelona, Messi has not been able to replicate that with Argentina despite scoring 50 goals in 107 senior international appearances.
He won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games but has not yet won a senior international trophy despite playing in the Copa America final in both 2007 and 2015, as well as the 2014 World Cup final.
Ahead of this summer's Copa America Centenario in the United States, Messi said he and his international teammates deserved to bounce back from recent disappointments and lift what would be their first senior trophy since 1993.
"We will try to win the trophy, take the opportunity we have," he said. "It would be very important for us to win the trophy, as it is a long time since that has happened. We were very close in the past, like in last year's Copa America. I think we deserve to win a big competition."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan