Reigning World Player of the Year Lionel Messi was not present at the media interaction on Wednesday ahead of the Sep 2 Argentina-Venezuela match in Kolkata, but the little magician hogged the limelight, being on the lips of all journalists as well as coaches.
Early on Wednesday, scribes seemed a lot crestfallen when the organisers yet again went back on their previous announcement of bringing Messi to the media meet.
“We tried very hard. But the coach Sabella did not agree,” said a source close to the organisers.
However, once the media meet got through, Messi - the world's most highly rated player to ever play in India in peak form - was the most discussed person.
While Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella blocked every stone thrown at the 24-year-old, his Venezuelan counterpart Cesar Farias tackled a volley of questions on how to tackle the jet fast dribbler by hinting at football as a team game.
“Messi is the best player in the world both for Barcelona and Argentina,” asserted a proud Sabella when asked about the striker putting up a better performance for his club FC Barcelona than for the national side.
Asked whether he would love to have a player like Zinedine Zidane in his ranks to ease off some pressure from the Catalan, Sabella replied, “We are looking for a couple of footballers who have good understanding with Messi and can take some pressure off him upfront.”
When a scribe reminded him about the great chemistry between Argentine World Cup winning coach Carlos Bilardo and Diego Maradona and asked him whether he would strive to build up the same sort of chemistry with Messi, Sabella replied in affirmative.
“I will try to have a great relationship with Messi. I think he will be very important for Argentina as we pursue our world Cup dreams. He is a lot more important than me. Players, especially Messi, are more important than the coach,” said Sabella.
Messi is set to debut as the new Argentine skipper on Friday against Venezuela in Kolkata, taking over the reins from Barcelona colleague Javier Mascherano.
Asked about his tenure with the armband, Sabella replied, “He is the captain from now on. Messi will remain the captain till the end of World Cup 2014 qualification.”
Venezuelan boss Farias rhetorically put “team game” ahead of one man centric play which Argentina prefers revolving around Messi, saying, “You can't hide the fact that Messi is a great player. There is no doubt about that. But football is a team game and every member is important.”