Football: Lionel Messi takes hiatus from Argentina duty, international future in doubt

Lionel Messi "will take a rest period", according to news website Infobae.
Lionel Messi "will take a rest period", according to news website Infobae.PHOTO: REUTERS

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) - Captain Lionel Messi will miss Argentina's next four friendly matches, according to local press reports on Tuesday (Aug 14).

And sources have told ESPN that the Barcelona talisman will likely give international duty a miss for the rest of the year, sparking fears over an indefinite hiatus after Argentina's disastrous World Cup campaign.

The 31-year-old has never won a major international trophy with his country.

"Messi will not return this year and there are doubts about his future," proclaimed Argentinian daily Clarin, while news website Infobae said: "He will take a rest period, but that doesn't mean he's quitting."

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner previously retired from the national side after their 2016 Copa America final defeat by Chile before returning to help them qualify for this year's World Cup in Russia.

However, they were beaten 4-3 in the last 16 by eventual champions France after barely squeezing through the group stage, with an embarrassing 3-0 loss to finalists Croatia the nadir of then-manager Jorge Sampaoli's reign.

The two-time world champions will face Guatemala in Los Angeles on Sept 7 and Colombia in New York four days later, before two friendlies later in the year against as-yet unnamed opponents.

"It is the coach who will say, when the time comes, what the situation is concerning Messi," a national team spokesman told AFP.

Lionel Scaloni has been in temporary charge of Argentina since Sampaoli's departure after the World Cup. He is expected to name his first squad for the visit to the US later this week.

"It's very personal, Leo must take his time to think about it. It would be useless for him to stay and do something he has no motivation for," said former Argentina team-mate and Boca Juniors forward Carlos Tevez.

"It's understandable even if he doesn't come back. When the international side play, rightly or wrongly, we criticise him."