When Lionel Messi played his part in Argentina’s Olympic gold medal winning side in 2008, it was hoped that it would be the first of many international honours. La Albiceleste have finished runners-up at both the World Cup and the Copa América since and there had been rumours previously that Messi could feature as one of the over-23 players at next summer’s Olympic games in an effort to land another title. Manager Gerardo Martino has appeared to pour cold water on that idea and instead pointed to the array of young talent that he has available.
Amid all of Gerardo Martino’s critics as Argentina coach, the 53-year-old maintained from day one that he would have a greater influence on the youth levels than previous managers. This included taking charge of what is largely an under-23 side for the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 before most are expected to step up to the senior squad.
“I’m goingtobethecoachoftheArgentina at the OlympicsbecauseI thinkthatitcorresponds to the senior squaddue to thekindofplayerswhoparticipate.”
The 22-player squad which will travel to Rio will be an under-23 selection except for three over-age players. When Messi, Agüero and Di María and company got their hands on the gold in Beijing they were joined by Juan Román Riquelme, Nicolás Pareja and Javier Mascherano.
There had been some speculation earlier in the year that Messi would be one of these three in 2016 but with a centenary Copa América to compete for and a healthy amount of options in attack already available that now looks virtually impossible.
“We have not determined if Messi will play, but I don’t see it as feasible. It would collide with under-23 players who are doing very well like [Mauro] Icardi, [Paulo] Dybala, [Luciano] Vietto and [Jonathan] Calleri.”
All four of those mentioned would be outstanding candidates for the Olympic squad and when you add in the likes of Ángel Correa and Lucas Ocampos, Argentina will be blessed with one of the strongest attacks in the tournament.
There are no clues as of yet who Martino will call upon as his three over-age players but the more likely option is that they are in slightly more defensive positions.