Lionel Messi’s absence from the Argentina squad for the latest World Cup qualifiers is due to his struggles in getting over a bout of Covid-19, coach Lionel Scaloni explained on Wednesday
Messi was left off the list of players to take on Chile and Colombia in the coming week, with Argentina’s place at Qatar 2022 already assured.
He has barely played any football since December, having come down with the virus just after Christmas.
“Clearly we would love to have Messi here with us,” Scaloni explained to reporters on Wednesday.
“I spoke to him and he told me that Covid hit him hard. It is key for him to get well, and that is why I decided that the best option was for him to stay at his club.”
Messi nevertheless, made an appearance at the conference from across the Atlantic, popping up to say “Greetings everyone” on the Instagram live broadcast.
As well as the captain, Argentina will be without their coach in Chile as Scaloni’s own positive covid test precludes him from travel.
He has already chosen the man who will wear the armband in Messi’s place: Angel Di Maria, who also received the honour in November against Uruguay with Leo on the bench.
“The question of the armband is logical enough,” Scaloni added. “Angel has been in the national team for many years and he is a guy who transmits a lot to his team-mates, he is loved and that’s all there is to it.
“In that, we are in no doubt at all.”
Though they have already qualified, Argentina will be looking to get prepared ahead of the world 2022 in Qatar.