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Lionel Messi Tops Argentina's 23-Man World Cup Squad Roster, Mauro Icardi Out

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMay 21, 2018

Argentina's coach Jorge Sampaoli stands in front of fans holding a picture of Argentina's forward Lionel Messi before a friendly football match between Spain and Argentina at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid on March 27, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Lionel Messi leads Argentina's 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and manager Jorge Sampaoli's line-up also includes Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero.

However, there's no place in the team for Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi despite his scoring 29 goals in all competitions this season, though West Ham United playmaker Manuel Lanzini made the cut: 

B/R Football @brfootball

Argentina's final World Cup squad looks 🔥... Even without Mauro Icardi 🇦🇷 https://t.co/dIJRHehpsO

River Plate goalkeeper Franco Armani and Boca Juniors midfielder Cristian Pavon are the only players named in the squad who play football in their native Argentina.

Football blogger Roberto Rojas filed Icardi in an elite bracket of Argentinian World Cup absentees after his form this term still wasn't enough to convince Sampaoli to take him to Brazil:

Roberto Rojas @RobertoRojas97

Icardi will go down as one of the biggest Argentina World Cup snubs with Riquelme, Redondo, Saviola, Tevez, Caniggia, Ramon Diaz and even Maradona

Icardi had featured in Sampaoli's provisional squad prior to Monday's announcement, but with only 23 spots up for grabs, it's been decided there are other areas of the squad that need greater attention.

The Inter marvel has scored 26 goals or more in three of his last four seasons—he still scored 16 times in only 34 appearances in 2015-16—but Argentina's wealth of options has seen him draw the short straw.

England's Premier League is the most well-represented division in the squad with six players. Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi are based at Manchester City; Lanzini is at West Ham; Willy Caballero plays for Chelsea; while Manchester United fringe players Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo made it despite not featuring much for their club this term.

But Sampaoli said in his announcement press conference that not playing prominently at club level doesn't mean a player can't still have a greater impact for the national team, per broadcaster Juan Arango:

Juan G. Arango @JuanG_Arango

Sampa: “I believe that (form) can be analyzed. Maybe some didn’t have the seasons that were expected of them. But some of these players have qualities that can maximize our play. But when they wear that @argentina jersey, they might be empowered.” #argentina

The manager suggested in March that it was "complicated for Dybala to get used to our system," per AS, while he added the issue with Icardi was that he struggled to transfer his club form to the international stage.

As if Messi wasn't sufficient for the forward department, many managers would go to great lengths to also be able to call upon Higuain, Dybala and Aguero, who make up what's likely the World Cup's best attack.

Or the most star-studded, at least. Dybala was the only one of that quartet missing from the team that finished runners-up to Germany at the 2014 World Cup, and La Albiceleste were still beaten at the final hurdle.

After some debate as to whether he'd make the squad at all, Dybala will now look to be the difference in his maiden World Cup.

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