Lionel Messi and the Argentina national team is a match that continues to capture the imagination of millions worldwide. Be it his early retirement from the national side or his return to the international fold just months after retiring, the Argentine has managed to grab the limelight. The latest event that has caught the attention of fans across the globe is Messi’s contribution in keeping fellow Argentine and Inter Milan superstar Mauro Icardi out of the national side.
After a few news agencies broke the news that Messi advised against including the player in the national side owing to his affair with former Argentina and Barcelona teammate Maxi Lopez’s former wife Wanda Nara, that led to their split and her subsequent marriage to Icardi.
While the rumours that Messi has a direct role in who gets picked for Argentina and who does not date back to former manager Gerardo Martino’s tenure, they have picked up pace after a series of terrible performances by the side and the Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza has been forced to publicly proclaim that Messi does not choose the side for him.
Speaking to Fox Sports, Bauza stated, "When Messi sees something in the team he doesn't like, he says so, but it doesn't hurt the team.” The Argentine manager also stated that he rates Gonzalo Higuain and Lucas Pratto ahead of Icardi.
"It is not true what is said that there are players who cannot be selected because they are not liked by the group. If I want to select him I will, but today he is below Higuain and Pratto."
Poor start to qualifying campaign for Argentina
Argentina have begun their World Cup Qualifying campaign on a horrible note, drawing twice against Peru and Venezuela and losing at home to Paraguay and currently sit in the fifth spot and outside the automatic qualification spot. Their inability to find the back of the net consistently has brought about their downfall in their first three qualifying games and Icardi could prove to be a valuable asset to the side.
However, that has not been the case, as Icardi continues to be overlooked for an Argentina role and it is largely believed that Messi has been angered by Icardi’s acts in the past and continues to veto his involvement in the side, that despite Icardi being prolific for Inter Milan over the last few years.
The Serie A star has found the back of the net on 58 occasions in 111 appearances since joining Inter from Sampdoria in 2013 and has been handed the captain’s armband owing to his impressive performances in front of goal.
However, none of that seems to have impressed the hierarchy at Argentina and Messi, despite the injury struggles of Sergio Aguero, the troubles experienced by Gonzalo Higuain in major tournament finals and Bauza has claimed that while Messi does give suggestions, they are just that and nothing more.
It remains to be seen how true Bauza has been in the assessment of the situation since great players often come with their tantrums and Messi, who is believed to have had his fair share of them in the past, could truly be the reason Icardi hasn’t played many games for Argentina.