There is still a month until Jorge Sampaoli has to name his preliminary 35-man Argentina squad for the World Cup but ahead of that May 14 deadline, it is understood that only one place remains open.
The Argentina manager is already meeting with players representing clubs in the Superliga and will soon travel to Europe to continue speaking with prospective squad members.
Independiente pair Fabricio Bustos and Maxi Meza met with Sampaoli at Ezeiza on Thursday and a day later was the turn of River Plate duo Franco Armani and Enzo Pérez. Boca Juniors’ Pablo Pérez and Cristian Pavón along with Racing Club striker Lautaro Martínez will all sit down with the Argentina coach and be included in this 35-strong list.
According to Tyc Sports, Sampaoli will travel to Europe and meet with a huge number of players over the coming weeks.
Lionel Messi, Éver Banega and Gabriel Mercado in Spain, Ángel Di María and Giovani Lo Celso in France, Sergio Romero, Wilfredo Caballero, Nicolás Otamendi, Ramiro Funes Mori, Marcos Rojo, Manuel Lanzini, Erik Lamela and Sergio Agüero in England, Federico Fazio, Lucas Biglia, Diego Perotti, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain in Italy, Eduardo Salvio and Marcos Acuña in Portugal and Nicolás Tagliafico in Holland.
The Argentina coach is also set to call Nahuel Guzmán, Agustín Marchesín, Matías Kranevitter, Emiliano Rigoni, Leandro Paredes and Javier Mascherano but will not be travelling to México, Russia and China to see them personally.
There would remain one place unaccounted for but it is defence that still looks light and so the very noticeable absentee would be Inter captain Mauro Icardi. The inclusions of Gonzalo Higuaín and Lautaro Martínez would potentially see the prolific centre-forward left out and will be sure to cause plenty of debate.
Ezequiel Garay remains out despite recent rumours of a possible return and so unless Sampaoli will take the opportunity to sound out the Valencia defender, Argentina must look elsewhere for a reliable back-up option to Federico Fazio.
Sampaoli will be travelling over the next few weeks before naming this initial squad on May 14th. Argentina will likely have two friendlies before travelling to Barcelona and cutting the squad to the final 23 by June 4th.
On June 9th, La Albiceleste will have a final warm-up game against Israel and then the next day travel to Russia ahead of their World Cup opener against Iceland on the 16th.
The 34 expected to be in Sampaoli’s preliminary 35-man squad:
Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero, Franco Armani, Wilfredo Caballero, Nahuel Guzman, Agustín Marchesín
Defenders: Fabricio Bustos, Gabriel Mercado, Nicolás Tagliafico, Nicolás Otamendi, Ramiro Funes Mori, Marcos Rojo, Federico Fazio
Midfielders: Maxi Meza, Enzo Pérez, Pablo Pérez, Ever Banega, Giovani Lo Celso, Ángel Di María, Manuel Lanzini, Erik Lamela, Lucas Biglia, Diego Perotti, Eduardo Salvio, Marcos Acuña, Matías Kranevitter, Emiliano Rigoni, Leandro Paredes, Javier Mascherano
Forwards: Cristian Pavón, Lautaro Martínez, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuaín