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Lionel Messi undecided on 2026 World Cup, calls Neymar reunion ‘difficult’

Lionel Messi undecided on 2026 World Cup, calls Neymar reunion 'difficult'

Lionel Messi (L) said it would be “difficult” to add former teammate Neymar Jr. to Inter Miami’s roster, citing his contract with Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal. Photo by Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE

June 7 (UPI) — Lionel Messi says he will wait to see how he feels physically before deciding on his participation in the 2026 World Cup. The Inter Miami striker also said a reunion with former teammate Neymar would be "difficult."

Messi made the comments during an interview with Infobae, which was published Friday. The Inter Miami striker is currently with the Argentine national team for friendlies against Ecuador and Guatemala. He is then expected to help the Argentine's in their defense of the Copa America title.

Messi, who won his first World Cup with Argentina in 2022, will be 38 during the 2026 World Cup. Questions about his retirement from the national team continue to linger. He said in 2016 that he would retire from international play, but later reversed course to lead the Argentines to their third World Cup crown.

Argentina is now the No. 1 team in the world, followed by No. 2 France, No. 3 Belgium, No. 4 England and No. 5 Brazil, in the FIFA world rankings. The 2026 World Cup will be held from June 11 to June 19 in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

"It depends on how I feel, how I am physically and being realistic with myself," Messi said, when asked about the 2026 World Cup. "And to know if I am up to the task of being able to compete and help the teammates next to me, know how I am physically…

Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi is on Argentina’s roster for a friendly against Ecuador on Sunday in Chicago. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

"There is still a lot and a little left, because it goes by quickly, but there is a while left and I don't know how I will be at that moment. Age is also a reality that is there, although it is a number, the games that I am going to play are not the same as the ones I played when I was in Europe in competition, which were every three days, or in the Champions League or in the League. …. But it depends on how I feel and what I feel when I'm next to my teammates and see if I'm still up to par or not."

Messi leads MLS with 13 assists though 12 games this season. He also scored 12 goals, which is tied with teammate Luis Suarez for the third-most in MLS. The star duo, paired with former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, helped lead Herons to an MLS-best 35 points and 10-3-5 record to start this season.

Inter Miami striker Lionel Messi leads MLS with 13 assists this season. File Photo by Larry Marano/UPI

Speculation continues to swirl about other potential soccer legends joining the Herons roster. Messi was asked about the possibility of another former Barcelona teammate, Neymar, joining the team to reunite the iconic Messi-Suarez-Neymar attack, but said he doesn't expect that to happen anytime soon — if ever.

"The truth is that it is difficult now," Messi said of Neymar. "He is in Saudi Arabia. He has one year left on his contract, it seems to me. He went through a difficult year now, where he was injured for a long time, which leaves him out of the Copa America as well, where he could not play most of the games in Arabia. And well, now it's difficult.

Lionel Messi and Inter Miami are the top team in MLS so far this season. File Photo by Larry Marano/UPI

"Afterwards, I don't know. The truth is that life takes so many turns that anything can happen, but I don't think that today, no."

Messi said he talks frequently with Neymar and that the two are in a WhatsApp group with Suarez, but did not offer a message of recruitment when prompted in the interview. The Brazilian striker is still recovering from a knee injury.

Argentina will face Ecuador at 7 p.m. EDT Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.


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