BUENOS AIRES. — Argentina’s interim coach Lionel Scaloni refused to be drawn on Lionel Messi’s international future after leaving the five-time World Player of the Year out of his squad for upcoming soccer friendlies next month. Local media had claimed the Barcelona star asked to be excused from international duty for Argentina’s four remaining friendlies in 2018, starting with a trip to the United States in September to play Guatemala and Colombia. “I’ve spoken with Messi and from that conversation I picked my squad,” said Scaloni, who took over from the sacked Jorge Sampaoli after Argentina’s underwhelming World Cup last-16 elimination to eventual champions France.
“We didn’t speak about what could happen in the future. We know what Messi represents for us and we’ll see for the future.” Messi, 31, has retired from international duty once before after missing a penalty in Argentina’s shoot-out defeat by Chile, for the second year running, in the 2016 Copa America final.
That lasted little more than a month, though, before Messi returned to the blue and white shirt for Argentina’s 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.
As it turned out, the twice former world champions were on the brink of elimination until a Messi hat-trick in their final qualifier earned a 3-1 come-from-behind victory away to Ecuador.