Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni believes superstar captain Lionel Messi is thriving in the current national team environment with the 2021 Copa America champions.
Messi has been criticised in the past for his performances for Argentina, which have paled in comparison to his club output, dominating with Barcelona up until 2021 having won a club-record 35 trophies and become the LaLiga giants’ all-time leading goalscorer.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner led Argentina to their first piece of silverware in 28 years after La Albiceleste dethroned rivals Brazil in July’s Copa America final, while Scaloni’s side are well on their way to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, unbeaten across 10 matches.
“It is very difficult that [Messi] has not performed with the national team,” Scaloni told a news conference ahead of Thursday’s CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier with Peru.
“There will be moments and team moments and I think that’s the most important thing in the end.”
Paris Saint-Germain’s Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th international goal was as Argentina eased past Uruguay 3-0 on Sunday.
“The team is the one that takes the situation forward, the one that makes him even better,” Scaloni added. “I think he is good in the team and comfortable with his team-mates. All of this makes it even better.
“It is clear that without the team his performance is not so reflected. Today we are doing well as a group, as a team and that is what is most important.”
Scaloni also welcomed Sergio Aguero closing in on a return to fitness, having featured in a Barcelona training match on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old, who was part of Argentina’s Copa success, has not played for Barcelona since his off-season move from Premier League champions Manchester City due to a calf injury.
Argentina – second in the qualifying standing – have only netted 18 goals in 10 qualifiers with Aguero potentially boosting their attacking options for November’s scheduled games against Uruguay and Brazil.
“The case for him, as with the other boys who have not been able to play, the most important thing is that they compete in their club and make things difficult for us,” Scaloni said.
“We have a team of enormous hierarchy, a team of great forwards and the final decision is the most difficult. What interests us is that they play for their club, that they perform well and we will have time to make the decision.
“Logically, we like them to play and that they are in continuity and we expect that from the boys who are not there.”