Teams are allowed to include three over-age players (Picture: Getty Images)
Lionel Messi could play at this summer’s Paris Olympics as one of three permitted over-age players after being invited to join the Argentina squad by Javier Mascherano.
The World Cup holders pulled off a 1-0 victory over Brazil on Sunday evening which secured their participation at Paris 2024 and denied the Selecao a place at the competition for the first time since 2004.
Brazil had won the last two Olympic gold medals and were bidding to make it three in a row, but they will not get the chance to defend their title.
Luciano Gondou’s 77th-minute header secured the win for Argentina’s Under-23 side in the South American qualifying tournament, and they are now expected to put together a strong line-up for the Olympics.
Teams are allowed to bring three players over the age of 23 and head coach Mascherano – who actually won gold alongside Messi in Beijing in 2008 – would love to include his old team-mate.
‘Everyone already knows my relationship with Leo, the friendship I have,’ said the former Barcelona midfielder after securing Olympic qualification.
‘A player like him has the doors open to accompany us [at the Olympics], then it will obviously depend on him and his commitments.’
Mascherano and Messi have known each other for decades (Picture: Getty)
Argentina’s Under-23 captain, Thiago Almada, also welcomed the potential for Messi to be involved: ‘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 could be double-booked, however, with the 36-year-old having already expressed a desire to compete at the Copa America, which runs from June 20 to July 14.
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If Argentina reach the final, Messi would only have 10 days off before the Olympic tournament begins on July 24.
Should Messi accept the invite, he could come up against former Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe who has expressed a desire to take part at the home Games – and could even be his nation’s flag bearer.
‘I’ve always had the “Olympic flame”. Along with the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games are the biggest sports event in the world,’ he said earlier this year.
‘The Games in Paris, 100 years after [the last time they were held in the city]… mean the world to me. The idea of competing at the Games with France would be an extraordinary opportunity. It’s actually more of a dream …read more