Lionel Messi Left off Argentina World Cup Qualifying Roster amid COVID-19 Recovery

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 19, 2022

BRASILIA, BRAZIL - JUNE 18: Lionel Messi of Argentina sing s the national anthem prior to a group A match between Argentina and Chile as part of Conmebol Copa America Brazil 2021 at Mane Garrincha Stadium on June 18, 2021 in Brasilia, Brazil. (Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images)
Pedro Vilela/Getty Images

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni didn't select superstar forward Lionel Messi for the national team's upcoming World Cup qualifiers as he continues to recover from COVID-19.

ESPN's Adriana Garcia reported Messi will remain with Paris Saint-Germain as La Albiceleste, who've already clinched a berth in the 2022 World Cup, face off with Chile on Jan. 27 and Colombia on Feb. 1.

Messi hasn't played since a Ligue 1 draw against Lorient on Dec. 22. He tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 2 during the league's winter break.

The 34-year-old Argentine posted an update on Instagram last week, saying a full recovery took longer than he expected but also confirmed he'd resumed training.

Messi is tentatively "expected to return" when PSG hosts Reims at the Parc des Princes, per Garcia.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is off to a solid start to his Les Parisiens career with six goals and four assists across 16 appearances between Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

He signed with the French giants in August after his storied Barcelona tenure came to a close because of the Spanish club's financial situation.

With Argentina having already punched its ticket to Qatar for the World Cup, which kicks off in November, the national team may give him the international breaks to rest and recover for the remainder of the 2021-22 club term.

The next qualifiers are scheduled for March and then La Albiceleste are scheduled to face Italy in a clash between the Copa America and Euro champions on June 1.

Winning a World Cup is one of the few boxes Messi hasn't checked off on his career resume, so being at full fitness and in peak form come November is surely a major focus in the months ahead.

With his absence, Angel Di Maria, Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala are among the players who will be called on to help lead the Argentina attack in the next set of qualifiers.