Lionel Messi and 22 others is the initial thought from Argentina’s World Cup squad for 2018, which is lacking one of Europe’s top sharp-shooters
Jorge Sampaoli has named his final 23-man squad hoping to go one better in Russia than those in Brazil four years ago. 14 of those included have never played at a World Cup before and while there is obviously a great deal of quality among the group, the jury is still out.
The big casualty & the number nine gamble
The 35-man shortlist brought with it no real drama but the inclusion of Mauro Icardi was always likely to be the headline when Sampaoli cut that to 23. And so it proved, as predictably the Inter captain was left out with Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín taking the spots.
Few could argue that either Agüero or Higuaín are anything other than elite centre-forwards but with one still recovering from knee surgery and the other, trying to shake off the demons of past misses, the lack of another option is a risk.
Is Icardi a victim of the supposed Messi Friends club? Has his personal life cost him? Or did Sampaoli really just assess things from a tactical stand point? We’ll likely never know but if Russia is a disaster, expect to hear more people crying out for Icardi.