Lionel Messi could win gold medal with Argentina Under-23s at Olympics

Lionel Messi could play at the Olympics this summer. (Image: Getty)

Lionel Messi tasted Olympic glory with Argentina in 2008 and the all-time great could be about to do the same this summer in France. La Albiceleste booked their spot at the under-23 tournament this week, with Luciano Gondou’s late header giving them a 1-0 win over Brazil.

But despite the age barrier, teams are permitted to include three over-age players in their squad. It’s a notion that Team GB exploded when they last entered in London in 2012, with Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards selected by Stuart Pearce. 

And now Messi, 36, has been approached by coach Javier Mascherano to play in Paris. The pair were teammates in Beijing in 2008 when their country last won the tournament, managed then by Sergio Batista.

After his side ended the hopes of a third straight gold medal win for their great rivals, Mascherano openly expressed his desire for the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner to join his squad. But he also conceded his schedule with Inter Miami, and the national senior side, may affect his availability. 

Messi in action at the 2008 Olympics. (Image: Getty)

“Everyone already knows my relationship with Leo, the friendship I have,” he said, having also played with Messi at Barcelona. “A player like him has the doors open to accompany us, then it will obviously depend on him and his commitments.”

Indeed, Messi has already stated he intends to help Argentina defend their Copa America crown, with the tournament in Costa Rica running from June 20 to July 14. If his side were to reach the final, it would mean just a 10-day gap between the culmination of the tournament and the start of the Olympic event.

Under-23s captain Thiago Almada is also desperate to have him involved though, admitting it would be a “dream” for the 2022 World Cup winner to play alongside the youngsters. “I hope he has the desire, that he can be there.

“We have to see how he is at that time, it would be a dream that he would be able to play. If Messi comes, I’ll give him the captain’s armband, obviously.”

Messi’s comments earlier this year suggest that at the very least, he will consider participating in France. “I’ve always had the Olympic flame,” he said.

“Along with the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games are the biggest sports event in the world. The idea of competing at the Games with France would be an extraordinary opportunity. It’s actually more of a dream than an opportunity.”