Lionel Messi touched down in California on Friday as Argentina prepared for the possibility that the injured Barcelona superstar may not be fit for next week’s Copa America Centenario showdown with Chile.
Messi arrived in the early hours from Barcelona, where on Thursday he had appeared in court to give evidence in his tax fraud trial that has also embroiled his father.
Messi, who suffered a back injury in a friendly victory against Honduras last week, is uncertain to be fit for Monday’s crucial Group D game against Chile at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.
The 28-year-old playmaker later took to the field during training near Argentina’s San Jose base. Messi trained separately from the rest of the squad along with another injured player Lucas Biglia.
Meanwhile team-mates Augusto Fernandez and Nahuel Guzman admitted on Friday that Argentina were facing up to the possibility of Messi’s absence against the Chileans.
“It is logical that being the best player in the world, it is clear that we all want him to be fit,” Atletico Madrid midfielder Fernandez said, adding that he was confident the squad would cope against the Chileans if Messi was ruled out.
“When you have moments of adversity that’s when the team has to step up,” Fernandez told a press conference.
Guzman said he hoped Messi could recover, but admitted he had been surprised by the Argentina captain’s decision to make a gruelling round trip from Spain just to appear in the Honduras friendly.
“It is shocking at some point because it is the captain, it’s Leo. He came to play this game, perhaps without much obligation or necessity, and he ends up getting injured,” the Mexico-based reserve goalkeeper said.
Monday’s game is likely to determine the winner of Group D, with Argentina facing further games against Panama and Bolivia.
Messi is bidding to end Argentina’s 23-year trophy drought after a series of agonising near-misses in recent years which saw the Albiceleste beaten in both the 2014 World Cup final and 2015 Copa America final.