Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni believes “it was positive” that Lionel Messi remained at Barcelona this summer instead of joining a new team.
Messi had grown increasingly unhappy at how the club was being run and announced in August his wish to leave the outfit. The Argentina captain was, however, forced to make a U-turn with the Catalan giants demanding his €700m release clause, with Messi tied to the club until June 2021.
“I spoke to Leo when everything was resolved and I saw him calm,” Scaloni said ahead of Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Ecuador at La Bombonera stadium.
“Since his arrival, we’ve been able to have a long chat. He is happy to be here. He’s now well in his club. All we wanted from a distance was for everything to be resolved and for him to play and to be fit. For us, it’s positive that he stayed because he was able to play immediately, he knows the club. But in terms of decisions, we don’t get involved in that, we don’t step in the player’s territory.”
Argentina begin their World Cup qualifying campaign knowing that the 2022 World Cup will be Messi’s last. Messi, who has played in four World Cups will be 35 years old when the 2022 event takes place in Qatar.
“We want and wish to qualify for the World Cup for our country but also for other reasons, among them for Leo to play there,” Scaloni said. “But It’s not something that we are discussing, we are taking it one game at a time.”
Argentina did not clinch a spot in the last World Cup until their final qualifier, wiith Messi scoring the three goals in a 3-1 win at Ecuador.
“It’s going to be tough,” Scaloni said. “We will have a competitive team if every player gives their best. The idea is to have a team that knows that Messi is there but also that there are other good players on the side.”
As for Messi’s position at Barcelona where he has been shifted behind the strikers, Scaloni said: “Leo will always be a striker, whether he plays as a 9 or another position. I don’t think his position on the pitch at Barca has changed much, he is still playing up front.”