Messi's Biggest Fan to Miss World Cup as Argentina in IMF Talks

(Bloomberg) -- Argentina’s financial crisis must be bad. In the soccer-mad nation, President Mauricio Macri is ditching his trip to the first stage of the World Cup to negotiate a loan from the International Monetary Fund.

This is a man who knows the political power of soccer.

When superstar Lionel Messi, 30, announced a tearful retirement from international soccer in 2016, it was Macri who took to national television to beg him to reconsider. Messi returned and led the team to qualify for next month’s World Cup in Russia, lifting the mood of the nation.

Messi's Biggest Fan to Miss World Cup as Argentina in IMF Talks

That must make the decision to miss at least the start of the cup all the more bitter. Still, given the circumstances, he had little choice. The peso slid as much as 5.6 percent to a new record on Friday, bringing its decline since the start of the year to 22 percent, the biggest drop in emerging markets. The slump threatens to derail the fight against inflation, which is already the fastest in Latin America after Venezuela.

IMF head Christine Lagarde said the lender is seeking a rapid resolution for talks with Argentina to help restore confidence in the country’s economy. The talks are scheduled to last about six weeks and Argentina’s first game is on June 16 against Iceland in Moscow.

The press office at the Casa Rosada confirmed Macri’s decision to skip the games after local newspapers speculated he wouldn’t attend.

Should the runners-up in the 2014 tournament pass the group stage of the World Cup, Macri will want to be in Russia supporting Messi and the rest of the team the second the talks end.

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