Lionel Messi left out of Argentina squad to build match fitness amid COVID-19 recovery



Posted Thursday, January 20, 2022 by ESPN

Lionel Messi has been left off Argentina's upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Colombia to allow the forward to rebuild his match fitness at Paris Saint-Germain as he recovers from COVID-19.

Messi has not played for PSG since a 1-1 draw at Lorient in Ligue 1 on Dec. 22.

With Argentina having already qualified for the World Cup, head coach Lionel Scaloni announced his 27-man squad Wednesday, leaving Messi at home in Paris.

The Argentina captain tested positive for COVID-19 during the Christmas holidays and returned to Paris from his native Rosario with a negative test Jan. 5.

Messi, 34, said in an Instagram post last week that it took him "much longer" to recover from coronavirus than he expected.

PSG sporting director Leonardo criticised Scaloni in November for selecting Messi for the last international window, arguing the forward was not fit to play for the team after having previously missed several games with knee and hamstring pains.

Scaloni responded, saying he understood PSG's frustrations over Messi's busy calendar but adding that his national team had a right to call up the player.

Lionel Messi left out of Argentina squad to build match fitness amid COVID-19 recovery
Lionel Messi has not playing since PSG's draw at Lorient on Dec. 22. Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images

Messi, who finished second behind Robert Lewandowski for FIFA's The Best award Monday, is expected to return Sunday to play in a Ligue 1 clash with Reims.

He has scored six goals in 16 matches for PSG this season following his free transfer from Barcelona in August.

Messi has featured in all 14 World Cup qualifiers for Argentina, starting in all but one -- he came on as a substitute in a 1-0 win at Uruguay on Nov. 13.

Argentina play at Chile on Jan. 27 and host Colombia on Feb. 1.

Scaloni's side have taken 29 points from 13 games and are second in the standings, six points adrift of group leaders Brazil and six points clear of third-place Ecuador.

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