The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has played every minute of his country’s Copa America campaign so far, with his manager reluctant to rest him
Lionel Scaloni has admitted to Argentina’s reliance on “tired” captain Lionel Messi, insisting it’s “very difficult not to count on” the Barcelona superstar.
Argentina booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Copa America after beating Paraguay 1-0 on Monday, giving them three wins from three in Group A.
Papu Gomez scored the winner but Messi was once again the main man as he racked up 74 touches and won 75 per cent of his 16 duels, more than any other player in the team.
What’s been said?
Messi hasn’t missed a single minute of the tournament yet, with Scaloni conceding that he couldn’t bring himself to grant the 33-year-old a rest as he equalled Javier Mascherano’s all-time appearance record for Argentina by earning his 147th cap.
“The reality is that Messi has been playing every game and it is very difficult not to count on him. Even though he is tired, he continues to make the difference,” Scaloni told reporters after the game.
“Today we made several changes and, despite that, we were able to take all three points.”
Messi’s international record
Messi currently stands as the top goalscorer in Argentina’s history on 73, with his latest strike coming in the form of a stunning free kick in their Copa America opener against Chile last week.
That effort also saw him overtake Gabriel Batistuta as his country’s leading marksman in competitive matches with 39 goals, and he could have the chance to add to his tally when Scaloni’s team take on Bolivia in their final Group A fixture on June 29.
Scaloni on rotation
Scaloni made six changes to his starting XI from their win over Uruguay on matchday two, with the likes of Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero drafted in, but he is still concerned about the squad suffering from burnout due to the quick turnaround between matches.
“What worries me is the physical condition of the players because we came from playing three days ago and today the conditions were not the best, so we had to rotate players,” said the 43-year-old.
“The first half we played very well and in the second, due to the merit of Paraguay and their good physical condition, as a result of many days off, they had more control of the game. The team showed a good image in the first half, but there are always things to keep improving.”