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Messi return to Argentina unlikely due to safety concerns - cousin

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Lionel Messi and Co. tear it up at Barca training (1:02)

Barcelona's full squad takes to the training field as they prepare for the return of La Liga. (1:02)

Lionel Messi's cousin, Maxi Biancucchi, has said safety issues in Argentina could prevent the Barcelona forward returning to his homeland to finish his career.

Messi, who turns 33 in June, has always spoken of his desire to play for hometown club Newell's Old Boys in Rosario before hanging up his boots.

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However, in recent years, his discourse has altered slightly. In an interview with TyC Sports in 2019, he admitted it may not be possible to play for Newell's again.

"If it was not for the safety issues in the country, I would have no doubts about saying he will return to Argentina to play," Biancucchi told Radio Club Octubre.

"For me -- and I have not spoken with him about it -- those safety issues could affect his decision to come back.

"It is my dream to see him play for Newell's but it's complicated. Imagine if he has to play in a Clasico [Newell's vs. Rosario Central] and the kids have to go to school... It's difficult. The city is hell."

Last Wednesday, former footballer Tomas Carlovich, known as El Trinche, died in the Belgrano neighbourhood of Rosario when a man struck him on the head in an attempt to steal his bike.

Messi's family have also been targeted in the city. In 2011, Messi's brother's home was attacked by unknown assailants who were carrying guns, although no serious damage occurred during the attack.

Messi has made a home in Castelldefels, an area just outside of Barcelona where he lives with his wife and three sons. In that 2019 interview with TyC, he suggested uprooting his children, aged seven, four and two, could be difficult when speaking about a return to Newell's.

However, Biancucchi said his cousin remains fiercely Argentine. Messi, who has lost a World Cup final and three Copa America finals with the Albiceleste, has often been criticised for not caring about the country which he left as a 13-year-old.

"The roots he has in Argentina and the love he has for the country is something that people don't quite understand," Biancucchi added.

"He's always branded as being Spanish, but he's really Argentine, in his own way. He goes to Argentina for his holidays, he got married in Rosario."

Messi has a contract with Barca until 2021, although there is a clause that would allow him to leave at the end of the season. He must inform the club if he wishes to exercise the clause this summer.