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Messi, Garnacho in Argentina squad for March friendlies

Lionel Messi is set to make his first appearance for Argentina since lifting the World Cup after he was called up by coach Lionel Scaloni on Friday for friendly matches later this month.

Scaloni named a 35-man squad that included all 26 players that won the World Cup in Qatar in December, beating France on penalties after a sensational final that ended 3-3 after extra-time.

Recent £100 million Chelsea signing Enzo Fernandez, Manchester United’s combative center-back Lisandro Martinez and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez, who was earlier this week named the best goalkeeper for 2022 by FIFA, are also in the squad.

Villarreal’s Giovanni Lo Celso returned to the squad after missing the World Cup through injury, while uncapped teenage Spanish-born Manchester United starlet Alejandro Garnacho is also included in a Scaloni squad for the second time.

Garnacho has made a meteoric rise at United this season, making 27 appearances for Eric ten Hag’s side, including 10 starts, and scoring four goals, the latest of which was the decisive strike in the Red Devils’ 3-1 FA Cup last 16 victory over West Ham on Wednesday.

Other uncapped young talents with limited senior first team experience have also earned a call-up including Manchester City midfielder Maximo Perrone, 20, and attacking midfielders Facundo Buonanotte, 18, of Brighton and Inter Milan’s Valentin Carboni, 17.

They have made a combined 10 senior appearances for their European clubs.

Argentina will host Panama on March 23 in Buenos Aires and then Curacao in Santiago del Estero five days later.

Messi had been widely expected to retire from international duty after finally, at 35, leading his country to World Cup glory.

But he said at the time that he still wanted to play a few more matches with his team-mates as a world champion.

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