Lionel Messi exploits FIFA loophole with new role in Argentina | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Lionel Messi exploits FIFA loophole with new role in Argentina

Sep 14, 2023 02:44 PM IST

Despite Lionel Messi's absence, Inter Miami claimed a 3-2 win against Sporting Kansas City last Saturday.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi did not feature in his team's recent clash against Bolivia, but he was on the bench in a different role. Messi served as an assistant coach to his side, but not before he signed paperwork with FIFA to assume his temporary position in the dugout.

Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, sings the national anthem with teammates prior a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026.(AP)
Argentina's Lionel Messi, right, sings the national anthem with teammates prior a qualifying soccer match for the FIFA World Cup 2026.(AP)

According to TNT Sports Argentina, the World Cup-winner couldn't be a part of the playing eleven or even the bench due to an injury he sustained in the previous match against Ecuador. But the player was allowed to watch the World Cup qualifier from the bench as Argentina beat Bolivia 3-0 with Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Tagliafico and Nicolas Gonzalez scoring.

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At the top of CONMEBOL qualifying, the Albiceleste are level with Brazil after two wins in two matches. Argentina have attributed Messi's unavailability to fatigue.

“I was a little tired, so it happened that I went out and surely it won't be the last time I go out during matches,” Messi said after coming off against Ecuador.

Meanwhile, Inter Miami manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino hoped Messi would be fully fit to feature in their MLS game against Atlanta United on Saturday. Inter Miami, who have been in red-hot form after the arrival of Messi, are currently six points behind the final playoff position. The David Beckham-owned club need a positive result to remain in contention for the ninth spot, currently held by D.C. United.

While fitness issues are understood to be the main reason behind Mess’s omission, former Bolivia goalkeeper Jose Carlos, however, had a different opinion. Talking to D Sports Radio, the ex-Bolivia custodian felt that past memories probably kept Messi away from the field.

“If you ask me, I prefer him to play. The two worst games in his history as a footballer have been in the city of La Paz, I have seen him suffer. The height kills him psychologically. I think he will not play in this game,” Fernandez said.

Unlike European leagues, MLS continues even during international breaks. Hence, Inter Miami, despite Messi's absence, registered a 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City last Saturday. Leonardo Campana fired in two goals to help his team.

"Like I said, Leo's absence was going to be felt," Campana said after the Sporting KC win. "But he has given so much confidence among the players. We believe now and know what we are capable of. Very happy with the result and the three points."

Earlier this year, Messi moved from PSG to Inter Miami, drawing curtains on his European career. It came months after the 8-time Ballon d'Or winner achieved the ultimate footballing glory at the Qatar World Cup.

Messi has since hinted that he may not play a part when Argentina take to the field to defend their title in US, Canada and Mexico. Messi has made himself available for the national squad in the qualifying round.

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