Despite Argentina cruising to victory against Chile in Santa Clara, the supporters made it clear who they wanted to see during the second half in which La Albiceleste were largely dominant. ‘MESSI! MESSI!’ came the cries but with the world’s best player still recovering from a back injury, Gerardo Martino wisely kept his most valuable asset on the bench.
It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for Lionel Messi with the injury suffered in the Copa América warm up game against Honduras and then a court appearance in Spain before flying back to watch the tournament opener.
However, after sitting out Monday’s encounter, Gerardo Martino told reporters, “The expectation is that in four days Messi is in a position to play.”
Messi also took to his official Facebook page to congratulate his teammates and hint at his return.
Martino’s hopes looked optimistic when Messi continued to train separately after the Chile victory but on Wednesday after the squad travelled to Chicago for Friday’s clash with Panama, the captain rejoined the group.
For the first since limping off in San Juan almost a fortnight ago, the 28-year-old trained with the squad and is in consideration for a return.
However, with realistically the hardest game of Group D already won, and the squad proving their capabilities without Messi it might be argued that a further rest would be beneficial.
Supporters in Chicago will clamour for the star attraction’s inclusion, as they did in Santa Clara, but Argentina must think about their progression in the tournament. If the 23-year wait for a trophy is to be ended then Messi will be vital and absolutely no risks should be taken.