Argentina are “Lionel Messi’s team” and the Barcelona forward will be central to their World Cup hopes, says head coach Jorge Sampaoli.
International honours have eluded Messi during his career, with Argentina beaten in the final of the 2014 World Cup and twice losing in the Copa America final.
Argentina face Italy in Manchester on Friday ahead of a match against Spain as their preparations for this year’s finals in Russia continue.
And Sampaoli confirmed he will be building his side around Messi, who, at the age of 30, may be set to play at his last World Cup.
“Each time he plays better,” Sampaoli told reporters. “For me this is the headline: This is Messi’s team.
“Teams reflect inside the pitch. In my case, I think much more about the opposite goal than in our goal.
“To have the best in the world on the pitch generates different themes to develop regarding the main idea of management.
“We have to see, within the format that we use, which players can connect better with Messi.
“As Messi is central to the planning that we make, we give him a decisive importance in training, in the preparation and regarding the connections that Messi can establish with every single player, close to him or far from him.
“The magnetism of Leo here and in his club allows us to lead from a different place. That’s what I really feel I have to do in terms of what he generates in relation to all his team-mates.”
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) March 22, 2018
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