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SPORTS | 18-03-2019 17:08

Messi the centre of attention as Albiceleste squad meets in Madrid

Returning superstar meets up with national side for first time since exit from last year's World Cup.

Lionel Messi is back with the Albiceleste – and unsurprisingly, he's already the centre of attention.

The footballing superstar – fresh from his outrageous exploits with Barcelona this weekend, in which he scored a thrilling hat-trick against Real Betis – headed to Madrid today to renew old acquaintances ahead of Argentina's upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

Messi arrived midday at the Albiceleste team hotel in the north of Madrid, with the Argentine Football Association's (AFA) Twitter feed eagerly posting pictures of the former captain's arrival.

Argentina later held a session at Real Madrid's training ground.

Messi is returning to the national team for the first time since the Albiceleste were knocked out of the World Cup in Russia last Summer. Argentina's friendly matches are geared toward this summer's Copa América, which will be held in Brazil from June 14 to July 7.

Coach Lionel Scaloni and AFA chief Claudio 'Chiqui' Tapia both did their upmost to persuade Messi to return to the national side for one last thrust at silverware.

Argentina will face Venezuela on Friday at Atlético Madrid's Wanda Metropolitan Stadium, before facing Morocco in Tangier on Tuesday, March 26. 

Messi is expected to only be in the side for the clash against Venezuela.

Otamendi out

While the prodigal son is returning, the Albiceleste will be missing centre-back Nicolás Otamendi, after the Manchester City star withdrew from the squad with injury.

Otamendi, a national team veteran with 59 caps, suffered a sprained left ankle on Saturday playing for the blues.

- AFP/TIMES

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