Lionel Messi admitted to being scared to return to international duty with Argentina following his recent injury woes.
The World Cup winner returned to the field for La Albiceleste Thursday for the first time since he sustained a muscular injury during the last international break last month.
The 36-year-old entered Thursday night’s game in the second half as Argentina clinched a narrow 1-0 win over Paraguay thanks to Nicolas Otamendi’s third-minute strike and continued its perfect qualification run for the 2026 World Cup in North America.
‘At first I was half scared, I wasn’t completely loose,’ Messi admitted, via ESPN Argentina, as he entered the game conscious of his recent injury.
Lionel Messi admitted to being scared to return to duty with Argentina following injury
The 36-year-old started on the bench for Argentina’s World Cup qualifier against Paraguay
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner entered the 1-0 win in the 53rd minute for Julian Alvarez
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He was also left out of Lionel Scaloni’s matchday squad to face Bolivia last month after appearing to sustain the injury in Argentina’s previous game against Ecuador on September 7.
He made his first international appearance for the World Cup winners Thursday since nursing the injury as he came off the bench in the 53rd minute of the 1-0 win for Julian Alvarez.
‘Luckily, I felt really good, I could build up training, minutes: I was out of action for quite a while, and I hope I can continue training fully to be able to feel like today. I’m happy because we were able to get the three points,’ Messi added.
‘With Bolivia, I also had to look at it from the outside, where it was a tough scenario in La Paz. The team had a great first half against Paraguay, after that I could enter the game and felt good.’
With the narrow win over Paraguay, Argentina are top of South American qualifying with three wins in as many games. They will travel to Lima on Tuesday for another qualifier against Peru.
The soccer great continued: ‘It’s difficult to play in the qualifiers, as we always say: it’s hard to play them, to find spaces, play quickly, against Paraguay, which is always difficult, we did well and had lots of shots on goal. We were able to finish the first half well with the lead.
‘We’re happy because we have continued in the same way for a while and we could leave with the better result.’
Following his international duty with La Albiceleste, Messi’s MLS season will finish on October 21 against Charlotte with Inter Miami already eliminated from playoff contention
Messi returned to the Herons’ lineup last weekend vs. FC Cincinnati but only played 36 minutes off the bench as his team lost.
Messi said that he hopes to continue training fully in order to build up his minutes
Nicolas Otamendi scored the lone goal of the game against Paraguay in the third minute
The 36-year-old had been linked to a loan move in Saudi Arabia or Barcelona after Miami were eliminated from playoff contention – with MLS’ regular season not set to resume until February after it concludes on October 21.
However, Fabrizio Romano poured cold water on those claims on Wednesday, saying Messi has his ‘full focus’ on Miami and Argentina as he gears up for a relatively busy November.
After the end of the MLS season, Messi is expected to face Uruguay and Brazil in World Cup qualifiers.
And reports have suggested that Miami will travel to China and Japan to play a pair of post-season friendlies as well.