Argentina will not rush Lionel Messi’s return to the national team but will instead allow him to “finish chewing the disappointment of the World Cup.”
Messi has not featured for the Albiceleste since captaining the side to the round-of-16 at last summer’s tournament in Russia, where they were beaten by eventual champions France.
On Monday, Barcelona forward Messi picked up the awards for La Liga’s top player and as the leading scorer of the league last season.
“We have the best in the world [Messi], which gives you more possibilities to do better,” AFA president Claudio Tapia told a news conference. “[But] now is the time to allow him to chew the disappointment of what happened at the World Cup and I have no doubt he will continue.”
Messi, who has scored 65 goals in 128 appearances for Argentina, quit the national team after the Copa America final loss to Chile in 2016 but then changed his mind and decided to play again.
He came to the rescue for Argentina in their World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring a hat trick in their last game to lift his team past Ecuador and into the tournament.
Messi, with Argentina having finished runners-up four years earlier in Brazil, was under great pressure to win his first major trophy with Argentina at the World Cup in Russia but the team exited early.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has not publicly addressed the subject of his national team future, but Tapia is convinced Messi will return to play for Argentina next year.
“I haven’t spoken to him because it’s not the time but I know what he feels for this jersey,” he said.
Argentina, coached by Lionel Scaloni, will play Mexico in Cordoba on Friday and then again in Mendoza four days later in a pair of international friendlies