Argentina interim coach Lionel Scaloni has said that the Albiceleste are keeping the number ten shirt reserved for Lionel Messi as they hold on to hope that their genius playmaker will once again don the shirt when he returns to the national team fold.
The diminutive playmaker has not had the best of World Cups as Argentina exited from the tournament at the Round of 16 stage to eventual winners France. He played his part with two assists in a World Cup classic in the last-16 tie but it was not enough to save Argentina’s fragile defence from the firepower of France and, in particular, 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe in a 4-3 defeat. Messi did not clarify his international future with Argentina after the World Cup.
Messi did not avail himself for international friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia with reports saying that he is on an international break and will not play with the national team this year.
Messi’s Argentina shirt however is not up for grabs. “There is only one answer for your question: every player who was in the World Cup kept his number, the ones who came here,” coach Scaloni replied when asked about Messi and his shirt.
“In this time, the 10 shirt belongs to Messi and it will stay this way until he decides if he will continue with us or not."
It also became clear from the coach’s replies that Argentina were still eagerly waiting for their number 10 to return. “We aren't closed to that chance so I chose to keep this number for him. In the future we will see, but if you look at the players who played the World Cup you will see they kept their numbers, and we wait for the future to see what happens, but so far no one is using the 10 because it is exclusive for him and that is my decision. There is nothing else about this.”
Scaloni also reiterated that Argentina are trying to put together a team which can play at a high level. A TyC Sport report had earlier said that Messi communicated his decision to interim coach Lionel Scaloni and the reason for his break was due to the uncertainty over the current project of the national setup and also the heartbreak of the World Cup exit in Russia 2018.
“It is obvious that when the best player of the world [Messi] is not in the pitch playing with Argentina, the team loses, there is no doubt about it," Scaloni added.
“But our idea is to assemble a team in case he is with us again so he feels comfortable with us, nothing else. In the mean time we make a team, we call a group of guys who understand what implies to play with these colours, then in the future we will see what happens.”