Lionel Messi feels the current Argentina team is “very close” to being as good as the all-conquering Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola.
Messi made his first start in almost a month for club and country last night and scored twice to guide Argentina to a 2-0 win over Peru in qualifying for the World Cup in 2026.
His goals saw him edge ahead of Luis Suarez to become the leading scorer in the history of South American qualifying with 31.
The win continues a remarkable period for Argentina under coach Lionel Scaloni with his team claiming the Copa America in 2021 – the country’s first international silverware since 1993 and the first of Messi’s career – before going on land the World Cup in Qatar at the end of last year.
Asked how this team compared to the brilliant Barca side under Guardiola that won 16 major trophies with Messi at its heart, he said: “I asked myself this the other day. This team is impressive and continues to grow, game after game it plays better and better.
“To compare it with Barcelona…that was the best team in history. It’s a lot right? But I think this team is very close because of what it has done, for being the champion in South America and then the world. That has a lot of merit.
“We have great players and no matter who plays we have a marked style of play that identifies us. I hope we continue on this path.”
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The win over Peru maintained Argentina’s 100 per cent record in qualifying after four games and they already sit five points clear of Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela in the table.
That reinforces Messi’s belief that their recent successes have not dimmed Argentina’s desire to achieve even more.
He added to TyC Sports: “I have said it many times. If there’s a good group and a good atmosphere in the dressing room then it is much easier.
“We enjoy playing together and being together.
“It is a very young group with a lot of hunger. There are young players who have won everything but still want to achieve things on an individual and group level.
“The message that the coach conveys is that the Copa America and the World Cup have passed, a new cycle has begun.”
The only blip in another success-laden 12 months for Messi was Inter Miami’s failure to reach the MLS play-offs but the 36-year-old is already planning to go again next season.
“It was a shame as we were close. I missed many games and we had several injuries,” he said.
“I will have a holiday in December with my family and in January I will return and do pre-season from scratch. I will prepare in the best way as always.”