After Lionel Messi's Argentina lifted the World Cup in Qatar, attention turns back to club football with Europe's top five leagues set to resume in the coming weeks.

The Premier League is the first to restart, with all 20 teams in action on either December 26 or 27, while Ligue 1 and La Liga get back under way in the following days.

You will have to wait until the new year for Serie A to recommence, before the Bundesliga starts back up again with Bayern Munich's visit to RB Leipzig on January 20.

It has been a while since Europe's elite paused for the World Cup, so Stats Perform provide a refresher of how things were shaping up before the hiatus.

LALIGA

Title race

It looks like a two-horse race in LaLiga, as it appears giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are set for an epic title fight.

Barcelona have their noses in front with a two-point margin over Madrid, but Carlo Ancelotti's side came out on top when the teams met in October.

The next El Clasico will take place on March 19 at Camp Nou and could have massive implications for who lifts the LaLiga trophy come the end of the season.

Champions League spots

With Barcelona and Madrid stretching away at the top of LaLiga, Basque sides Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao are the two teams that occupy the other Champions League spots.

Athletic are one of three sides on 24 points, while Villarreal in ninth are just three points behind following their Champions League heroics last season.

Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano are two teams that were not expected to be in the race for top four, but they sit in seventh and eighth respectively and are well within striking distance.

Relegation battle

Six-time Europa League winners Sevilla are in big trouble at the bottom of LaLiga, with two victories in their first 14 matches putting them in the relegation zone.

They are yet to win at home, and head coach Julen Lopetegui was relieved of his duties after their Champions League exit.

Sevilla are kept off the bottom by Cadiz and Elche, with the latter yet to win a league game this season and picking up just four points before the World Cup break.

Big performances will be needed from World Cup heroes such as Argentina's Marcos Acuna and Morocco's Youssef En-Nesyri and Yassine Bounou if Sevilla are to haul themselves away from trouble.

PREMIER LEAGUE

Title race

Arsenal hold a five-point lead at the top, but Pep Guardiola's Manchester City will fancy their chances of retaining the title and have a rested Erling Haaland itching to get back scoring goals.

Haaland has been a revelation since joining from Borussia Dortmund, scoring 18 times in 13 games, though City's quest for a fifth title in six years has been hampered by defeats to Liverpool and Brentford.

However, with Haaland ready to play and Arsenal striker Gabriel Jesus out for three months with a knee injury suffered at the World Cup, Mikel Arteta's side must carry on where they left off.

Champions League spots

Newcastle United have been one of the stories of the Premier League season, with a run of five straight victories under Eddie Howe taking them all the way up to third.

There is still a long way to go, but Newcastle are in a great position to finish in the top four of the Premier League for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign under Bobby Robson.

Tottenham currently hold fourth position with Manchester United just three points behind in fifth, while Liverpool's poor start sees them 15 points off leaders Arsenal.

Surprise package Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea are both on 21 points, but a solid run of form could put the pressure on those above.

Relegation battle

It may be a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire for Lopetegui as he was appointed as head coach of Wolves in November, with the Midlands club bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. Only two teams in that position have avoided relegation in the past.

A source of comfort for Wolves fans will be just how many teams are in danger of the drop, with Bournemouth in 14th just six points above them.

Everton and Leeds United are once again down there after narrowly staying up last season, while 2021-22 Europa League semi-finalists West Ham United are just a point above Nottingham Forest, who are in the bottom three after a tough opening to their first season back in the Premier League after a 23-year exile.

SERIE A

Title race

After an incredible start, Napoli currently hold an eight-point lead at the Serie A summit, the largest among the top five leagues.

They have achieved that in impressive fashion, yet to lose a league match this season and boasting the most potent attack with 37 goals in 15 matches, led by the division's top goalscorer Victor Osimhen (nine goals) and new star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (11 goal involvements), both of whom should be fresh having not played in the World Cup.

Just three points separate Milan in second and Inter in fifth among the chasing pack, but Napoli may soon be out of sight if they can pick up their incredible form from before Qatar.

Champions League spots

Just six points separate second and seventh in Serie A as teams desperately scramble to keep leaders Napoli in view.

Inter are currently out of the top four on goal difference, while Juventus are third despite Massimiliano Allegri coming under pressure during a mixed start.

Holders Milan are second and Lazio sit fourth, while Jose Mourinho's Roma are well poised in seventh place.

Relegation battle

The three teams in the relegation zone are yet to hit double figures for points, with 17th-placed Spezia six points above the drop zone.

Cremonese, Sampdoria and Hellas Verona in 18th, 19th and 20th respectively have combined for two victories from 45 matches so far.

While the likes of Spezia, Lecce and Sassuolo may be looking over their shoulders, they can remain pretty confident they will be playing Serie A football next season if the bottom three maintain their dreadful form.

BUNDESLIGA

Title race

In the Bundesliga, Bayern won six matches in a row prior to the World Cup, a much-needed run considering they had been victorious in just one of their previous six.

That upturn in form saw them build a four-point margin at the top, but the loss of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with a broken ankle sustained in a skiing accident could be a big blow.

However, it is reasonable to expect Bayern to have enough quality to see off the challenges of the likes of Freiburg and Leipzig and earn an 11th consecutive Bundesliga title.

Champions League spots

Borussia Dortmund will face Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16, but they have much work to do if they are to qualify for next year's competition after a disappointing start in the Bundesliga

They currently sit sixth and are playing catch up, with Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin also ahead of them.

It should be an exciting race for the top four spots, with Werder Bremen in ninth just six points off the Champions League places, while Wolfsburg in seventh are a team to watch having gone nine unbeaten before the World Cup.

Champions League spots

Schalke have won just twice this season at the foot of the league, and could face an immediate relegation back to the second tier.

Stuttgart occupy the relegation play-off spot and have called upon former head coach Bruno Labbadia as they fight to stay up, while Bochum are between Stuttgart and Schalke.

Of the teams just outside the drop zone, Xavi Alonso's Bayer Leverkusen won their last three matches prior to the break and appear to be steering themselves out of trouble, while in contrast Augsburg failed to win any of their past seven.

LIGUE 1

Title race

While a 2022-23 league title would only be Napoli's third in the club's history, Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will be collecting a ninth in just 11 years if they see the job through.

PSG's players starred at the World Cup with Messi and Kylian Mbappe facing off in a brilliant final and return to club football with the hopes of working together to finally win the Parisian club's first Champions League.

Mauricio Pochettino's failure to win European football's top prize last season cost him his job, despite winning Ligue 1 at a canter, and Christophe Galtier will know the same fate could befall him should PSG be defeated by Bayern in the round of 16, with the first leg set to be played on February 14.

PSG's domestic challengers include Lens and Rennes, but they face a real challenge if they are to close the five-point gap to Galtier's side, who are unbeaten and have the division's best attack and meanest defence.

Champions League spots

While Lens and Rennes may not be able to catch PSG at the peak of Ligue 1, the two teams will certainly fancy their chances of staying in the top three.

With fourth place in Ligue 1 only enough to earn a place in the Europa League, Marseille will be striving to dislodge one of the aforementioned sides and wrestle their way into Europe's premier club competition.

Lorient have finished 16th in the last two campaigns but an excellent start sees them in fifth, above perennial European contenders Monaco, Lille and Lyon.

Relegation battle

Ligue 1's relegation scrap is wide open with the reduction of France's top tier to 18 teams meaning four teams will go down this season.

There is just six points between Reims in 11th and second-bottom Strasbourg, the latter of whom narrowly missed out on the European qualification spots last term.

Angers are propping up the league on eight points, and their survival chances could take a significant hit if they lose midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who is reportedly wanted by Barcelona after outstanding performances for Morocco at the World Cup.

Angel Di Maria has been "galvanised" by Argentina's World Cup success, which Massimiliano Allegri sees as good news for Juventus.

Di Maria played a starring role in his country's epic final triumph against France on Sunday.

The winger won the penalty for Lionel Messi's opener, then added a sublime second himself before being substituted with Argentina seemingly in control.

France rallied to reach a shoot-out following a 3-3 draw, but Messi and goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez led Lionel Scaloni's side to a long-awaited victory.

Di Maria had returned to the Argentina line-up for the Lusail Stadium showpiece having lost his place in the XI following an injury in the group stage.

It has been a similar story for the 34-year-old at club level this season, joining Juve as a free agent but seeing only 246 minutes of Serie A action prior to Qatar 2022.

Bianconeri coach Allegri is optimistic now, however, with Di Maria joined in the Argentina squad by club-mate Leandro Paredes.

"For sure they are galvanised by this World Cup victory," Allegri said on Thursday.

"And they are well physically, which is the most important thing, especially for Di Maria, who had some problems in the first part of the season anyway."

Di Maria's fitness has been far from Juve's only problem, with Allegri's men eliminated from the Champions League at the group stage and 10 points off the pace in Serie A.

But the coach said: "We need to prepare well and get back into the championship atmosphere straight away, because then from January 4 until June 5, we're never going to stop.

"We need to be very good at trying to play 36 games, which would mean getting to the Europa League final and getting to the Coppa Italia final."

FIFA is investigating how celebrity chef Salt Bae gained "undue access" to Argentina's on-pitch celebrations after the World Cup final.

Salt Bae, the Turkish chef and social media presence whose real name is Nusret Gokce, posted several photos of himself with the World Cup trophy on social media after Sunday's game.

The chef, who owns a chain of luxury steakhouses and rose to fame through a series of viral internet videos in 2017, was also seen attempting to pose for a photo with Lionel Messi and several Argentina team-mates.

His presence in the immediate aftermath of the trophy presentation is now the subject of a FIFA investigation after attracting widespread criticism.

A widely reported statement from world football's governing body read: "Following a review, FIFA has been establishing how individuals gained undue access to the pitch after the closing ceremony at Lusail stadium on December 18.

"The appropriate internal action will be taken."

Earlier this month, Salt Bae posted an image on Instagram of himself at a World Cup match alongside FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Brazil greats Ronaldo, Cafu and Roberto Carlos.

Noel Le Graet has written to the Argentine Football Association to complain about "abnormal" and "shocking" taunts towards France forward Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe became just the second man to score a World Cup final hat-trick on Sunday, but it was not enough for France as Argentina won on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw.

La Albiceleste's third title triumph sparked scenes of wild celebrations back home, with Tuesday's victory parade in Buenos Aires cut short as huge crowds caused the team's bus to be held up. 

Amid the celebrations, Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez – who saved a penalty from Kingsley Coman in the shoot-out – was seen holding a doll with Mbappe's face printed on it.

Social media footage also showed Martinez calling for "a moment of silence" for the Paris Saint-Germain forward in the dressing room after the game, leading former France defender Adil Rami to describe the Aston Villa keeper as "the most hated man in the world of football".

In an interview with Ouest-France, French Football Federation president Le Graet said: "We have launched different procedures. It is very shocking. 

"These are boys who have given the best of themselves for the France team to succeed. It is important that we support them.

"I wrote to my counterpart from the Argentine Football Association. I find these excesses abnormal in the context of a sports competition, and I find it difficult to understand. 

"It goes too far. Mbappe's behaviour was exemplary."

While Mbappe took his World Cup goal tally to 12 by winning the Golden Boot in Qatar, fellow France forward Karim Benzema missed the tournament with a thigh injury before announcing his international retirement this week.

La Graet was not surprised by the Ballon d'Or winner's decision but refuted suggestions Benzema could have returned to Qatar to feature in the World Cup final. 

"He probably intends to focus 100 per cent on his club after having several small injuries," La Graet said.

Asked about reports France considered bringing Benzema back for the final, he added: "To my knowledge, he returned to training very recently, in no case could he have played. 

"The staff did the right thing, they wanted him to leave very quickly to see his doctors in Madrid."

Didier Deschamps' future as France head coach will be left up to him when he meets French Football Federation (FFF) president Noel Le Graet next week.

France reached a second consecutive World Cup final in Qatar, but were heartbreakingly defeated 4-2 on penalties by Argentina following a 3-3 draw after extra time.

With Deschamps' contract expiring at the conclusion of the tournament, it is unclear whether the 54-year-old will decide to continue on in his role.

But with Deschamps leading France to three major tournament finals since his appointment in 2012, Le Graet is hopeful the former midfielder will choose to stay on when they talk next week.

However, if Deschamps indicates he wants to end his tenure, Le Graet will respect that decision.

"Didier has done his job well, he has priority, and I think we will agree [to carry on]," Le Graet told Ouest-France.

"We are already going to spend some time together to talk a bit about what happened in Qatar and how we are already considering the 2024 European Championship.

"If he does not want to stay, it will be a very short [meeting].

"If he wants to stay, there will be slightly longer discussions.

"It would be good if we can complete this [process around the decision] before the end of the year."

Former Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has been among the names linked with the job if Deschamps opts to leave.

Argentina's World Cup triumph has moved them up to second in FIFA's world rankings, but Lionel Messi's Golden Ball-winning exploits were not enough for top spot.

La Albiceleste defeated France on penalties in a thrilling final that ended 3-3 after extra time at Qatar 2022, ending their 36-year wait for the sport's biggest prize.

But despite it proving fifth time lucky for talisman Messi, it is Argentina's closest rivals Brazil who top the world rankings at the end of the year.

The Selecao were knocked out in the quarter-finals following a penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia, but Tite's side hold on to their place at the summit.

It ends a run of four consecutive years when Belgium have ended the calendar year as the world's top-ranked nation in men's international football, with the Red Devils dropping to fourth.

Their descent allows France to move a place up the ladder, to sit third behind Argentina, while England round out the top five in an unchanged position.

A shock loss to Morocco sees Spain slip down the list to 10th, with the African nation in 11th, while Croatia enjoy a major bump to go seventh at Denmark's expense.

Indeed, Denmark suffer one of the biggest drops, down to 18th, with the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal rounding out the rest of the upper echelons.

Other countries enduring slides down the rankings after poor World Cups include Germany, Uruguay and Wales, but there are boosts for Japan, Australia and Cameroon after impressive performances.

Marcus Rashford declared "there is no time to feel sorry for yourself" after scoring on his Manchester United return after World Cup heartbreak with England.

Christian Eriksen and Rashford were on target as United breezed to a 2-0 win over Vincent Kompany's Burnley to reach the EFL Cup quarter-finals at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Rashford scored three goals in Qatar before England were eliminated by France in the last eight after Harry Kane missed a late penalty in a 2-1 defeat.

The forward has been involved in 13 goals in 12 EFL Cup appearances, scoring nine and assisting four, and assured his focus remains on United and not on the disappointment in the Middle East.

"It is good to play again but it was a tough game and it was good to get a win to take into the next game," he told Sky Sports.

"[The World Cup loss affects you] more emotions-wise because it was such a disappointing feeling to be knocked out and you have to pick yourselves up.

"There is no time to feel sorry for yourself. You need to pick up results and thankfully we did that. It was fun to be out there."

The 25-year-old believes the EFL Cup can propel sides to success in the Premier League, with United sitting three points behind fourth-placed Tottenham – who have played a game more.

He added: "We are in every tournament to go on and try and win it. This one is a good one to win. 

"Winning this early in the season, in February, can push you on to go and achieve things for the rest of the campaign – we are going to try and do that."

United manager Erik ten Hag hailed the versatility of Rashford, who will be expected to play a vital role in the second half of the season after Cristiano Ronaldo's exit.

The Dutchman told Sky Sports: "He was a constant threat. Playing on the backline of them, he is so dangerous, with his movement with and without the ball, he creates so much and then you see the benefits."

Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez were both unavailable after Argentina defeated France to lift the World Cup on Sunday.

Ten Hag does not expect to have Martinez back for the time being as the celebrations in Argentina continue, while he refused to offer an update on the return of Jadon Sancho, who was not named among United's substitutes.

"In Argentina, I think they are still celebrating," he added. "We will see, the Premier League is going to restart and we have to be ready for that."

Ten Hag's side return to Premier League action at home to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday.

Christophe Galtier believes Kylian Mbappe's return to Paris Saint-Germain training just three days after a World Cup final defeat is a "strong signal."

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium, twice converting from the spot while also firing home a superb volley as the game ended 3-3 after extra time.

It was Mbappe's team-mate Lionel Messi who ultimately lifted the trophy, though, after Argentina won the penalty shoot-out 4-2.

While Messi returned to Argentina to celebrate, Mbappe was back in PSG training on Wednesday as he attempts to overcome his Qatar heartbreak.

The forward will turn his attention back to the remainder of the season, with PSG holding a five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 and facing a huge Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich in the round of 16.

Galtier feels Mbappe's decision to get stuck back in with PSG instead of taking extra days off shows what he is made of. 

"I'm very happy to see him," Galtier told PSG TV. "Kylian had a great World Cup. This return is also a strong signal to everyone.

"A player who may have been disappointed not to lift the most beautiful of trophies, even if he was top scorer at this World Cup [with eight goals].

"He wanted to get back in contact with the group very quickly and prepare for the deadlines which are coming up very quickly. 

"We are very, very happy to see him."

Achraf Hakimi, who enjoyed an excellent World Cup as Morocco got further than any African nation in history, also returned to training with the Ligue 1 champions on Wednesday.

PSG return to competitive action against Strasbourg on December 28.

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has accused his successor Gianni Infantino of disrespect, while lambasting plans to expand the World Cup.

The Qatar 2022 edition of football's flagship tournament is the last to feature its current 32-team format, with 48 nations set to take part at the 2026 event.

Infantino has pushed for expansion since he replaced Blatter as the head of FIFA and has explored moving the World Cup to either a biennial or triennial cycle.

But his predecessor suggests he is not acting in the best interests of the sport.

"What is happening at the moment is an over-commercialisation of the game," he told German newspaper Die Ziet. "[It is] trying to squeeze more and more out of the lemon.

"[Look at] the World Cup with 48 teams, or a Club World Cup that must be viewed as competition to the UEFA Champions League. FIFA is meddling in something that doesn't really concern them.

"I have no relationship with Infantino. He behaved disrespectfully because he has refused any contact with me since his election. He only communicates with me through lawyers."

Infantino revealed plans for a 32-team Club World Cup earlier this month, returning to a planned expansion originally waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal is still subject to confederation approval, and is expected to generate pushback from several leading clubs, particularly in the wake of the failed European Super League breakaway.

Gareth Southgate's decision to remain as England manager has left his players "absolutely delighted", according to Kieran Trippier.

The former Middlesbrough boss considered walking away from the post he has held since 2016 after his side were edged out in the World Cup quarter-finals by France.

With a semi-final appearance at Russia 2018, and a runner-up finish at Euro 2020, there had been questions over whether Southgate could depart before the end of his contract, which runs through to Euro 2024.

The subsequent confirmation he is staying has been positively received by his players, with right-back Trippier indicating the 52-year-old has the full backing of the squad he took to Qatar 2022.

"We are all absolutely delighted about it," Trippier told the i newspaper. "From the moment he first took charge until now, we've taken great huge steps.

"Players want to play for England, they know what it means to put the shirt on. He's a great man manager, and I think all the lads would say that.

"Speaking for myself, I'm delighted that he's staying on, and I know that all the rest of the players are too."

After a difficult time that saw England relegated in the Nations League prior to the World Cup, Southgate initially said he required time to think over his future before recommitting.

Trippier believes England are continuing to progress, pointing to the spirited performance against France as a sign of growth.

"I think we have moved forward, for sure," the Newcastle United full-back added. "You see the freedom the players had to attack, and you just have to look at the France game. I thought we were brilliant.

"We have taken huge steps. It was another learning curve for us, but we move on now."

England will begin a possibly thorny Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with games against reigning European champions Italy and Ukraine in March.

Pep Guardiola believes Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the greatest player of all time, describing arguments in favour of Pele or Diego Maradona as "sentimental".

Messi has long been considered among the best ever, but both he and Cristiano Ronaldo trailed Pele and Maradona in the eyes of some while neither had won the World Cup.

That changed on Sunday, when Messi led Argentina to glory at Qatar 2022, matching Maradona's achievement from 1986.

However, in the eyes of Manchester City manager Guardiola, who coached Messi at Barcelona, there was never any doubt.

"Everyone has their opinion, but nobody can doubt he's there with the greatest of all time," Guardiola said. "For me, I've said many times: he's the best.

"It's difficult to understand how a player can complete what he's done in the past 50 or 70 years.

"The people who saw Pele or [Alfredo] Di Stefano or Maradona, the people can say 'my favourite', but these opinions are sentimental.

"On the other side, if he wouldn't have won the World Cup, the opinion about what he has done for the whole of football and my opinion of how he is as a player wouldn't change absolutely anything.

"But it's normal that it depends if you win [how] you are evaluated. Of course, for him, it's the final cherries on his incredible career."

Messi was joined in the Argentina side by City striker Julian Alvarez and Nicolas Otamendi, who spent five years at the Etihad Stadium between 2015 and 2020.

"We are incredibly happy for him [Alvarez] – congratulations," Guardiola added. "For him, for Nico Otamendi, personally for Messi, for Argentina the country, for a well-deserved champion.

"For Julian, he is with us, and we are delighted. He played a lot, and his contribution was amazing to the team for the way we played. We have a world champion in our team."

Guardiola confirmed Alvarez would now enjoy "a break", but City's other World Cup stars have started to return ahead of Thursday's EFL Cup fourth-round tie against holders Liverpool.

"The players that were at the World Cup are in a better condition than the players who were here, that's for sure," Guardiola explained.

"Sergio [Gomez], Erling [Haaland], Riyad [Mahrez], Cole [Palmer]... the rhythm they miss a little bit compared, for example, to Manu Akanji and Rodri and Aymeric [Laporte] and Nathan [Ake].

"They came back and we saw them so good, perfectly. That's normal. They compete, they train every day, while we had holidays."

Kylian Mbappe returned to Paris Saint-Germain training on Wednesday, three days on from France's World Cup final defeat.

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in Sunday's showpiece match against Argentina, becoming only the second man to net a World Cup final treble.

But it was only enough to earn a 3-3 draw and take an out-of-sorts France team to a penalty shoot-out, where they lost 4-2 despite Mbappe again converting his spot-kick.

Mbappe now owns the record for the most World Cup final goals, having also netted once in France's 2018 success, and took home the Golden Boot ahead of PSG team-mate Lionel Messi.

Messi and Argentina were still celebrating their Qatar 2022 triumph back at home this week as Mbappe made a swift return to club duty, having celebrated his 24th birthday on Tuesday.

PSG are back in competitive action next Wednesday, taking on Strasbourg in Ligue 1 as they attempt to stretch a five-point lead at the top of the table.

Ethan Mbappe, Kylian's younger brother, has been involved with the PSG first team for their mid-season friendlies, appearing on the bench for Wednesday's game against Quevilly-Rouen.

Richarlison will undergo an MRI scan to determine the severity of the hamstring injury he sustained at the World Cup, Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has revealed.

Richarlison scored three times in Brazil's run to the last eight in Qatar – including a brace in their group-stage opener against Serbia – after recovering from a calf injury ahead of the World Cup.

However, the Spurs attacker was forced off with a hamstring issue in Brazil's quarter-final clash with Croatia, with the Selecao going on to lose a penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw.

Spurs resume their Premier League campaign against Brentford on Monday, and while Ben Davies and Rodrigo Bentancur have returned from the World Cup in good condition, Conte faces an anxious wait on Richarlison's fitness.

"Ben Davies is okay and started to work with us last week. He has recovered," Conte told the club's website on Tuesday.

"Rodrigo has started to work. I think that he's going to be good for the game against Aston Villa [on January 1].

"For Richy, tomorrow he's going to have an MRI to know very well the importance of the injury. After tomorrow, we will see very well the time he needs to recover."

Spurs have spent much of this season battling injuries to key attackers, but Conte's side still entered the World Cup break fourth in the Premier League table, three points behind second-placed Manchester City.

Argentina were unable to complete their World Cup victory parade as their bus was held up by huge crowds in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.

It was estimated that millions of people had flocked to the streets to welcome their World Cup heroes home, hoping to get a glimpse of Lionel Messi and the trophy.

But the sheer number of supporters in attendance made for dangerous scenes after a national holiday was declared two days after the victory over France in the final in Qatar.

Social media footage showed members of the public attempting to jump into the Argentina bus as it made its way along the planned route.

Attempts to continue were eventually abandoned, with a helicopter tour the alternative following a lengthy pause in proceedings.

Gabriela Cerruti, a spokesperson for the presidency of Argentina, posted on Twitter: "The world champions are flying over the entire route in helicopters because it became impossible to continue on land due to the explosion of popular joy.

"Let's continue to celebrate in peace and show them our love and admiration!"

AFA president Chiqui Tapia had already confirmed the team would not be able to reach the iconic Obelisco.

"They don't let us get to greet all the people who were at the Obelisco," Tapia wrote. "The same security agencies that escorted us don't allow us to move forward.

"A thousand apologies on behalf of all the champion players. A pity."

Lionel Messi believes Diego Maradona "encouraged us from heaven" as Argentina beat France in Sunday's World Cup final.

La Albiceleste ended a 36-year wait to win their third World Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over the reigning champions at Lusail Stadium.

The teams drew 3-3 after extra time, with a Messi double and Angel Di Maria strike cancelled out by a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick as a gripping tie went all the way to spot-kicks.

However, Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni failed to convert their penalties as Argentina won the shoot-out 4-2 to earn Messi his first World Cup in dramatic fashion.

The win was especially emotional with the World Cup in Qatar the first since Maradona, who famously led Argentina to glory at the 1986 World Cup, passed away in November 2020.

After losing the 2014 World Cup final to Germany because of a 113th-minute Mario Gotze winner, Messi was glad the same fate did not befall Argentina against France.

Messi released a message on Instagram, saying: "I always dreamed of being a world champion and I didn't want to stop trying, even knowing that maybe I would never give up.

"This cup we got is also from all those who did not make it in the previous World Cups we played, like in 2014 in Brazil, where they all deserved it for how they fought until the same final, worked hard and wanted it as much as I did.

"It's also from Diego who encouraged us from heaven.

"And of all those who spent the time always supporting the national team without looking so much at the result but the desire we always put into it, also when things didn't go as we wanted.

"Many times failure is part of the journey and learning and without the disappointments it is impossible for success to come.

"Thank you very much from my heart! Let's go Argentina!!!"

Messi's latest Instagram message came after his photo holding the World Cup trophy became the most popular post in the social media platform's history, amassing 65 million likes.

He followed that up by uploading a picture on Tuesday of him in bed holding the famous trophy, which was liked over 40 million times in the nine hours after it was posted.

After the country's government declared Tuesday a national holiday, Messi and his team-mates landed back in Argentina and were greeted by mass crowds of adoring fans.

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