Lionel Messi returns to Barcelona stomping ground as Argentina gear up for World Cup after friendly with Israel is cancelled due to political protests
- Lionel Messi trains with Argentina in Barcelona ahead of the World Cup in Russia
- Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain were also spotted at the home of La Masia
- Jorge Sampaoli’s side were set to face Israel in Jerusalem on Saturday afternoon
- The friendly at Teddy Stadium was cancelled due to political protests on Tuesday
- The Palestinian FA thanked the players for ‘not supporting a non-sporting goal’
Jorge Sampaoli’s side took part in a training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, home of the famous La Masia, in a bid to keep fresh for the tournament in Russia in under a fortnight’s time.
Argentina will now have a 10-day break before their next match, which will be their first group game against Iceland on June 16, after their final friendly before flying out to Moscow was cancelled due to widespread protests.
Lionel Messi strikes a ball during a training session with Argentina national team in Barcelona
Maximiliano Meza (L) keeps his eyes on the ball before heading it back to his team-mate
Messi (L) takes on his some of his Argentinian team-mates during a training session
Their friendly with Israel was cancelled as political pressure grew ahead of Saturday’s scheduled fixture in Jerusalem.
‘They’ve finally done the right thing,’ Higuain told ESPN, confirming reports the game had been cancelled.
There was no initial reaction from the Israeli FA or from Israeli politicians as reports said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentinian President Mauricio Macri to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit.
Israel Radio quoted an unnamed diplomatic official who said the chances of salvaging the fixture were very slim.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero passes the ball in front of a Barcelona-themed backdrop
Aguero (L) and Messi (R) smile as they keep the ball up during a training session in Barcelona
Messi (C), Aguero (3-R), Manuel Lanzini (2-R) and Meza (R) take part in some running drills
The proposed friendly match between Israel and Argentina was denounced by Palestinians
The visit of Argentina attracted huge interest among Israeli fans, mainly due to anticipation surrounding Messi’s presence in Jerusalem.
Palestinians celebrated the cancellation as the Palestinian FA issued a statement that read: ‘We thank Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal.’
The match was originally to be played in Haifa but Israeli authorities contributed funding for it to be moved to Jerusalem, irking Palestinians further following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was moved there last month.
The game will have helped Sampaoli with his preparations going into the tournament but will now stay in Catalonia until they depart for Russia next week.
The two-time World Cup winners face Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia in what is considered to be one of the hardest groups in the tournament.
Gonzalo Higuain (L) praised the Argentinian FA for ‘doing the right thing’ before training
Nicolas Otamendi (L), Angel Di Maria (C) and Marcos Rojo (R) arrive for training on Wednesday
Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli gives orders to Messi and Aguero during training
Author: Nancy Parker
Nancy Parker is a five time Emmy Award winning journalist and seven time Emmy nominee who has spent almost twenty five years covering news in South Louisiana. She has anchored every prime time newscast at WVUE FOX8 during her twenty year tenure in New Orleans.