1. ITV Report

Argentinians rally to demand Lionel Messi return to national team

Fans waved flags and banners, lauding Messi Credit: Reuters

Hundreds of Argentinians have rallied in the pouring rain to demanded that soccer star Lionel Messi remain in the country's national team.

Messi quit unexpectedly following a loss in the regional Copa America final, telling reporters after the match: "I think this is it. It's over for me on the team."

That decision has gone down badly with Argentinians who this weekend called on him to think again.

Messi's decision to quit the national team was unexpected Credit: Reuters

At the urging of public figures such as President Mauricio Macri and Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona, crowds gathered in the Argentinian capital.

They surrounded the Obelisco, a monument on one of Buenos Aires' central avenues where fans traditionally celebrate sporting victories.

Crowds gathered around the Obelisco, calling on Messi to think again Credit: Reuters

Some waved banners that lauded Messi in superlative terms, and begged the star not to shed the national squad's iconic blue and white stripes.

"He has to come back - excuse the emotion - but it's what I feel," said fan Juan Alberto Salas. "For me, he's exceptional, a god."

Messi - who was named as World Player of the Year on five occasions - has played in three Copa America finals, in 2007, 2015, and 2016, as well as in the 2014 World Cup final, but lost each time.