There was no dream comeback for Lionel Messi on his international return with Argentina.
The South American giants kicked off their 2019 campaign against Venezuela, playing in front of a half-empty Wanda Metropolitano and coming up short in a disappointing 3-1 defeat.
Salomon Rondon fired the underdogs into an early lead, before Jhon Murillo increased their advantage to lead 2-0 after 45 minutes.
Messi himself did his best to inspire Argentina but - despite almost producing one of his greatest assists - was unable to influence the key moments during the game.
Lautaro Martinez briefly gave Argentina hope, redeeming himself after missing a header during the first-half, but it would ultimately prove futile.
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Argentina 0-3 Venezuela
The forward's namesake Josef Martinez did his best Jorginho impression from the penalty spot to seal the deal for Venezuela and send a serious statement around the world.
Messi was visibly disappointed with the result at the full-time whistle, cutting the same apperance that saw him gutted at the 2018 World Cup.
The only saving grace is that Messi hasn't been forced to travel long distances for the game and will be able to recharge for Barcelona's upcoming fixtures by sitting out the Morocco game.
Marca brand Messi as 'fatigued'
However, there was still concerns about Messi regardless and the Madrid media made a point of the forward's fatigue during the aftermath of the game.
Marca even dedicated an entire article to it and wrote as their headline: 'Argentina continues to tire Messi.'
They proceeded to write: 'Messi is fatigued. It would have been good to rest, but he played in Wanda because he had to return to his national team and because he was on the poster.
'Scaloni tried Leo's magic potion but the experiment was a disaster. Messi entered the mix and it did not work.
'After the break, Messi continued to suffer. Messi continues to tire of the equipment of his country.'
Pretty strong stuff, but when you consider how fatigued and frustrated Messi has looked in Argentina colours, it's pretty difficult to argue with Marca's assessment.
There doesn't seem to be the same joy in his performances for his country and the 31-year-old often looks downbeat about the teammates around him.
All the travelling that comes with representing Argentina has certainly taken its toll over the years, but even six months off and a game in Spain doesn't seem to have solved the problem.
If Messi does eventually achieve the international success that has evaded him, he will do so through gritted teeth.
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