Lionel Messi will be in Argentina’s Copa America squad regardless of concerns over a lack of playing time with the national team, coach Lionel Scaloni has confirmed.
Messi made his first appearance for Argentina since the 2018 World Cup in a 3-1 friendly defeat to Venezuela in Madrid on Friday but has since returned to Barcelona due to a knock sustained in that game.
Argentina face Morocco in Tangier on Tuesday, with Scaloni revealing that Juventus forward Paulo Dybala will replace Messi in the line-up.
The Morocco friendly is Scaloni’s final chance to assess his options before picking his Copa America squad, with Argentina kicking off their campaign against Colombia on June 15.
However, he insisted that Messi can be sure of his place, though the coach noted that Argentina cannot be so dependent on their star man.
“We have decided 80 per cent of the [squad] for the Copa America, we are missing three or four places,” Scaloni told a press conference.
“In principle, Messi was at his maximum [against Venezuela], he got very involved in the group and he finished the game.
“We talked about the game, not the future. But it is clear that he will be at the Copa America.
“It’s something that we knew could happen in attack, we have to work so that does not happen, that each player is not attracted to Messi and understands that he is one more player that will help win the matches.”
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 25, 2019
Sclaoni confirmed only Gonzalo Montiel, Leandro Paredes and Lautaro Martinez will retain their places in the starting XI against Morocco, who he believes will represent a stern challenge as Argentina look to bounce back from their display against Venezuela.
“Morocco are a great team that posed a lot of problems for Portugal and Spain in the World Cup,” he said.
“When I said that the players had to give more [after the defeat to Venezuela], I talked to them and they understood me. If everyone does what they do at their clubs we will be a better team. It went badly but it is better that it goes wrong now so we can avoid repeating it.”
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