Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has admitted that he hopes football will "repay the debt" that manager Jorge Sampaoli claimed owes him.
Messi produced a miracle when Argentina needed him most in the nation's final World Cup qualifying match, and he almost single-handedly managed to secure his country's ticket to Russia 2018.
And now, reflecting on the qualification, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner hopes to be repaid by the footballing gods:
"I hope football will repay the debt," he explained in an interview with FIFA.com (via Marca). "I heard what Jorge Sampaoli said. In fact, he even told me himself."
Messi and his side made their way to the World Cup final back in 2014 - eventually losing to Germany in extra time, and the 30-year-old admits that even now the memories of that night haunt him:
"No, I don't think it will ever heal," he said. "I think I'm just going to have to live with what happened, it'll always be there. The World Cup provides nice memories, but also some very painful ones."
Heading into the summer, the South American country hopes to be able to emulate the kind of form that made them so successful in 2014. But despite a less than impressive qualifying campaign, Messi reckons something has changed now that they know they'll be in Russia when the World Cup comes around:
"After the Ecuador game, the team feels different," he continued. "Argentina has let go of all the fear and tension that came with that match. This changes the atmosphere a lot."
Argentina find themselves in Group D for the World Cup, along with Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria.