Argentina manager Gerardo Martino has dismissed speculation that Lionel Messi plans to limit his future involvement with the national team.
Messi pulled out of Wednesday's friendly clash with Germany due to a "minor adductor muscle problem," but Martino insists any rumours regarding the forward's long-term absence from friendly action is nonsense, per Argentine outlet Ole (h/t ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan):
When you get to coach a player like Leo it is very difficult to keep away from the comments which can circulate. In Catalonia it was said that he was minding himself for the World Cup, but he ended up scoring 30 La Liga goals. Now this happened [the injury], he is not coming with the team and the rumours start again. Unfortunately sometimes it is up to us coaches to clear up these rumours. It is tiring.
A player of Messi's rare calibre tends to draw attention with his every move but former Barca boss Martino is understandably beleaguered with the extent to which his attacker's motives are analysed.
Sergi Font of Spanish newspaper Marca had written on Tuesday that Messi's omission from the Germany clash, a re-staging of the 2014 World Cup final, was due to the player's plans to limit his international involvement:
Leo Messi is seriously considering the idea of not playing in any more friendlies for his country for all this season, as he is wanting to concentrate all his efforts on playing for Barcelona and getting back some of his old magic. 'La Pulga' is not turning his back on Argentina, but rather just wants to lessen his commitment to them, dropping out of the friendlies until 2015, when the Copa America will be held.
Messi has made 93 appearances for Argentina since debuting for La Albiceleste in 2005, an average of around 10 games per year. That alone should be evidence that he is, or at least has been, eager to pull on national team colours during his career.
The Barcelona talisman has scored 42 goals in that time, with Sam Kelly of ESPN FC noting the prestige he's verging on, despite still being just 27 years of age:
More Messi: 42 goals for #ARG. Edges closer to Batistuta's national team record of 56. Won't manage it in this World Cup. Well probably not.— Sam Kelly (@HEGS_com) June 25, 2014
Messi's apparent patriotism doesn't ring true with all Argentina's stars, however, as Angel Di Maria disagrees with the decision to schedule a match of little importance.
The Manchester United star hinted to the Argentine version of ESPN (h/t ESPN FC's Richard Jolly) that he's not looking forward to Wednesday's match against Germany, the side who beat them to World Cup glory this summer:
The season is very long, with the Copa America too at the end of the year. I believe these games, sometimes, I would prefer to avoid them. This is not about revenge [for the World Cup final], it is just a friendly game, nothing more. They are the world champions and we are coming to their party. They will present the trophy. But, well, we will try to do our best.
The topic of international friendlies, especially ones staged right as Europe's domestic seasons are getting underway, is a hotly discussed one. Opinion tends to be divided between those wanting to preserve the world's superstars and those who have a deeper sentiment for national team competition.
Argentina fans can at least rest assured that Messi appears fully intent on maintaining his national loyalties, at least according to Martino.
Regularly spoken of as arguably the best player in the world, Messi showed at the World Cup just how essential his individual efforts are for Argentina.
One may argue against the maestro being awarded the tournament's Golden Ball, but it's without doubt that Argentina wouldn't have reached the 2014 final without his input.
Martino's words allay fears that Argentina's superstar is experiencing wavering commitments, a positive sign ahead of next year's Copa America.