Argentina coach: No need to rush ‘retiring’ Messi

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is not putting a timeline on how long Lionel Messi will play for the national team.

Messi, 36, captained Argentina to World Cup glory in 2022 and won the Golden Ball in the process, but he has not given any specifics as to when he will retire from international football.

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Asked in Monday’s press conference ahead of Argentina’s World Cup qualifier at Peru if he should get accustomed to playing without Messi, Scaloni said: “Let’s keep in mind that he [Messi] is still here. What a way to think about ‘when he is gone.’ The truth is that he is still active, let’s leave him alone, are we already retiring him? We commit hara-kiri, we are all crazy.”

Messi came off the bench and played over 40 minutes in Argentina’s 1-0 win over Paraguay in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier.

The Inter Miami CF forward scored in last month’s 1-0 win over Ecuador, but then missed the team’s second World Cup qualifier — a 3-0 win at Bolívia due to muscular problems. Scaloni did not say whether or not Messi would start on Tuesday.

“Leo [Messi] is fine,” he said. “He has been adding minutes of training. We will make the decision tomorrow. It’s a matter of minutes, of how much he can play. If he’s well, you know what I think, he will play.

“We always try to play those that are at 100 percent or close to 100 percent. Today it is very difficult for everyone to be at their best in these games so there may be a variation with respect to the game against Paraguay.”

Messi will finish the MLS season on Oct. 22 away to Charlotte after Miami failed to reach the playoffs. The MLS club will then play two games in China in November during its postseason before the next international FIFA window, when Argentina host Uruguay on Nov. 16 and play at Brazil five days later.

And Scaloni welcomed the additional reps for Messi ahead off the crunch CONMEBOL qualifiers: “It’s not a problem. On the contrary, he will play two games and come with rhythm.”

Argentina have won all three of their qualifying games and are top of their South American group, two points clear of Brazil.