Will Lionel Messi's Argentina Commitments Hurt His Barcelona Campaign?
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As captain of the Albiceleste, Messi has seen his team rise from the relative depths of 13th place in the world rankings up to second. Only Vicente Del Bosque's all-conquering Spain team now lie ahead of them as the world's premier footballing nation.
Their current position is well deserved.
Under Messi's captaincy, Argentina have played beautifully and remained unbeaten since 11 November 2011. On an individual level, Messi's international form has been as sparkling as ever—contributing goals and assists aplenty.
Having qualified for Brazil 2014 by virtue of their crushing 5-2 defeat of Paraguay, it would be reasonable to expect that their captain might now play a more peripheral role in the lead up to the tournament.
Not Leo Messi!
How many times have we seen him playing for Barca in the past in a game that in reality means little. It's simply not in his mindset to take a rest when afforded the chance.
There's not much doubt that he will view the remaining World Cup qualifiers in October against Peru and Uruguay, and the friendly against Romania in March 2014, as an opportunity to edge even closer to Gabriel Batistuta's scoring record of 56 goals. Messi is currently on 37.
And forget his on-pitch duties for a moment. His role as captain of his country carries with it extensive responsibilities and endless choreographed photo opportunities—his meeting with the Pope a prime example of the sort of incessant demands that are placed upon him.
Something has to give doesn't it?
The player has already identified, via FCBarcelona.com, the difficulties of club games that fall directly after an international break:
Games after the international break, especially away from home against a team that have so much at stake like Celta are always difficult.
It’s not easy to come back and play, because practically all of us are called up to national teams and we can’t prepare for the match like we would have liked.
Indeed, we only have to look at Messi's lethargy in the Sevilla game at the weekend as a perfect recent example of just how energy-sapping such trips can be.
Alejandro Sabella, Gerardo Martino and the powers-that-be in Argentina now have the perfect opportunity to work in tandem with Messi to ensure that he is fresh for the entirety of the season with Barca—and then subsequently in Brazil with the national team.
Graham Hunter noted in his column for ESPN just what playing and winning means to Messi and if he is not managed correctly throughout this term, we could potentially see burn out come the business end of the campaign.
He really should've recharged his batteries over the summer, given he was still recovering from injury.
Yet, whilst Gerard Pique was tweeting pictures from his holiday in Miami and Cesc Fabregas was relaxing with family in Ibiza, Messi was travelling thousands of miles around the world to take part in a series of "Messi and friends" charity matches.
The ridiculous schedule simply has to stop. If he is allowed to keep ploughing the furrow, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Messi will pick up the niggly little injuries that blighted the back end of his and Barca's season last year.
Levels of expectation in Messi's home country are now beginning to reach Maradona-type heights and it's not overstating the case to say that he carries the genuine hopes of a nation on his shoulders.
Therefore it is pertinent and sensible for his international commitments to be reigned in—starting now. Sabella must understand that by helping Barca he will be helping himself.
Let us hope that common sense prevails.
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