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Messi eyes milestone as Argentina return post-World Cup

Having fulfilled a lifetime dream, Lionel Messi will get to celebrate with Argentina’s fans as the Albiceleste play their first match after winning the World Cup in Qatar last year.

More than 80,000 fans will attend the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires for Thursday’s friendly against Panama (Friday AEDT).

While many would have seen winning the biggest trophy in football as the perfect note on which to end his illustrious international career, the 35-year-old Messi has decided he has more to give for his country.

“Leo (Messi) is fine,” Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said.

“Until he says otherwise, he will continue to come. He is happy on the pitch with the national team.”

The Paris St Germain forward could make it a night to remember if he gets on the scoresheet – he needs one more goal to reach the 800-mark in his professional career, although Cristiano Ronaldo remains the all-time leader with 828.

A double would allow Messi, Argentina’s record scorer, to reach a century of goals for his country.

Messi scored twice in December’s World Cup final against France, where Argentina won on penalties to claim the trophy for the first time in 36 years and spark massive celebrations in the soccer-mad country.

Messi, who also led Argentina to the 2021 Copa America, was named FIFA’s player of the year in February for the second time, capping a remarkable few months.

The Argentine playmaker, who also boasts a record seven Ballon d’Or awards for the world’s best player, has little left to prove having also enjoyed huge success at club level at Barcelona and then PSG, winning 11 league titles, four Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and three UEFA Super Cups.

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