Lionel Messi has reiterated his commitment to Argentina’s national team and hit out at “lies” about him in his homeland.
The 31-year-old ended an eight-month self-imposed exile from international football against Venezuela but could not prevent a 3-1 defeat in Madrid.
He then missed the Albiceleste’s 1-0 win over Morocco on Tuesday because of a groin complaint.
His absence stirred controversy in Argentina with some media outlets pointing out that Messi attended the baptism of Cesc Fabregas’s children on Sunday and trained freely with Barcelona on Wednesday.
“People said I went back because of a baptism,” Messi told Argentina’s Radio 94.7 Club Octubre.
“It’s nonsense. It hurts me that people lie. I don’t hear or see these things, but my family suffers. Some will make up anything and people buy it. They say my father runs AFA (the Argentine Football Association) and that he does what we want. It’s all lies.”
Of his fitness, the Barcelona No. 10 said, “The truth is that I have had this pubis problem since before the break in December. I have been playing less. In the last few years, I have been taking care of myself.
“(Argentina coach Lionel) Scaloni knows that and that’s why he decided I shouldn’t travel (to Morocco), that the rest would be good for me.”
Messi also spoke of Argentina’s disappointing 2018 World Cup in Russia, where the team was eliminated in the last 16 by eventual champions France.
He said he is determined to win a major trophy for the Albiceleste, having lost the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.
“If I didn’t want to (win titles), I wouldn’t play for the national team,” he said. “Nobody is forcing me to. I want to win something with this team. I want to be here and I want to play in all the important competitions.
“When I decided to go back, a lot of people were against me. My son asked, “why do they crucify you in Argentina? I tell him it’s only some people, that there are others who love me. I show my affection for the national team in a different way and to anyone who says differently, I have nothing to prove.”