Lionel Scaloni hopes Lionel Messi can just produce "what he does every Sunday" as Argentina target success at the Copa America.

Argentina will face Nicaragua on Friday in their final friendly before their Copa campaign begins against Colombia on June 15.

Messi is still bidding to win his first senior title with Argentina, and his performances for the national team have often been criticised.

Scaloni believes his nation can be successful as a team, if Messi can deliver what he does regularly for Barcelona.

"If we have a good performance as a team and, in addition, Messi does what he does every Sunday, we will surely do well," he told a news conference on Thursday.

Scaloni named Messi, Manchester City star Sergio Aguero and River Plate forward Matias Suarez to lead his attack against Nicaragua.

The former Argentina international hailed his side's attacking talent, saying: "We know we have pure dynamite up there.

"So, if we are solid, we will have many possibilities."

Real Madrid have been urged to sign one of Lionel Messi's children by Alvaro Arbeloa after the Barcelona superstar revealed his son Mateo cheers for their LaLiga rivals.

Messi claimed another LaLiga title this season but Champions League and Copa del Rey defeats to Liverpool and Valencia respectively has seen the five-time Ballon d'Or winner ruthlessly trolled by his own son.

"Thiago never misses a match," Lionel Messi told TyC Sports. "Mateo loves football, he wears all the shirts.

"We were playing at home and he said to me, 'I'm Liverpool, who beat you'; 'Valencia won, eh - I'm Valencia'.

"The TV is there, and he cheers Madrid's goals to annoy his brother. He's the one who is a Madrid fan."

Messi's comments caught the attention of former Madrid full-back Arbeloa, who won LaLiga and two Champions League trophies during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Let's get him [Mateo] signed," ex-Spain international and World Cup winner Arbeloa tweeted on Wednesday.

Messi – preparing for the Copa America with Argentina – scored a LaLiga-high 36 goals in 2018-19 as he claimed his sixth European Golden Shoe.

The 31-year-old finished the season with 51 goals in all competitions as Barca reached the Champions League semi-final and Copa del Rey decider.

Lionel Messi insists he has not yet given up on the dream of winning the World Cup despite the "terrible" defeat in the 2014 final.

The Barcelona star was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the tournament in Brazil five years ago after inspiring his side to the final, where they faced Germany.

However, the main prize eluded Messi and Argentina at the Maracana, as Mario Gotze's extra-time strike secured a 1-0 win for Joachim Low's side.

Argentina were again beaten by the eventual winners four years later, with France knocking them out 4-3 at the last-16 stage en route to winning the 2018 tournament in Russia.

But Messi is not discounting the idea of getting his hands on international football's top prize, even though he will be 35 by the time the 2022 finals get underway in Qatar.

"God will say if we look at it or not," he told TyC Sports when asked about his hopes of lifting the World Cup trophy. "It would be the ultimate. It's the biggest dream I have yet to fulfil.

"Being so close to that World Cup [in 2014] was terrible, because we deserved to be able to lift it.

"It was the ultimate moment for that generation. We had an impressive group. It's getting tougher; nobody gives you anything and not conceding goals is so important."

Messi says his sons Thiago, six, and Mateo, three, are now old enough to watch him play for Argentina or Barca.

However, it seems Mateo has been happy to tease his father about defeats to Liverpool and Valencia in the Champions League and Copa del Rey in the past month - and even show support for Real Madrid.

"Thiago never misses a match," he said. "Mateo loves football, he wears all the shirts.

"We were playing at home and he said to me, 'I'm Liverpool, who beat you'; 'Valencia won, eh - I'm Valencia'.

"The TV is there, and he cheers Madrid's goals to annoy his brother. He's the one who is a Madrid fan."

Messi admits it is becoming increasingly difficult to leave his young family to join up with the national team, adding: "It's hard to leave them, more and more so. The call-ups are more difficult for me every time. I suffer being so far away from them."

Lionel Messi has cast doubt on Argentina's chances of winning this year's Copa America in Brazil.

Messi has twice reached the final of the competition, in 2015 and the Centenario edition in 2016, but on both occasions they were beaten by Chile on penalties.

Argentina have contested four of the past five finals but have lost all of them, with their last continental triumph coming back in 1993 in Ecuador.

And Messi is not convinced they will be challenging in 2019, as he believes the squad is undergoing a transition.

"We go with the same excitement as always, but the reality is that Argentina is going through a process of change," he told TyC Sports.

"It's the first official competition for most of them, but it doesn't mean Argentina are going looking for the trophy. We're not candidates like other times."

Messi admits his is still feeling the frustration of the end to the club season, with Barcelona having seen their treble dreams dashed in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Although they won LaLiga, a shock 4-0 defeat to Liverpool in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final saw them crash out of Europe, while they were beaten 2-1 by Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Despite those disappointments, Messi has been feeling good in the Argentina camp ahead of a friendly with Nicaragua on Saturday.

"I'm more tired and frustrated in my head than physically, most of all because of the elimination from the Champions League," he said. "In the last few years, I've played fewer minutes. I feel good."

"I feel very good. It's a really nice group that's very eager to do things well. It's a very good group, with really good people beyond just the footballing sense."

Sergio Aguero has confirmed he still plans to return to boyhood club Independiente before retiring as he prepares to make his Argentina comeback at the Copa America.

Aguero has not been selected by his country since their underwhelming performance at last year's World Cup, despite scoring twice as Jorge Sampaoli's side exited in the last 16.

Sampaoli was subsequently replaced by Lionel Scaloni, who recalled Manchester City striker Aguero in his Copa America squad instead of Inter's Mauro Icardi.

Aguero has regularly spoken of a desire to return to his homeland before hanging up his boots and he reiterated his plan at a news conference on Thursday.

"I always try [to get back to Argentina]," he told reporters, having left Independiente as a teenager in 2006 to join Atletico Madrid.

"I know what the fans [of Independiente] want, but I have a contract with City and I try to focus on these two years I've got left.

"Then I'll see what I'll do but of course, the Rojo [Independiente] is my priority."

Despite being an unused substitute as City thrashed Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup final to complete a historic domestic treble, Aguero had one of his most prolific seasons to date.

The 30-year-old hit 21 Premier League goals, becoming only the second player in the history of the competition to score at least 20 times in five consecutive campaigns.

Staying fit was crucial to Aguero's consistency and the striker is revelling in being pain-free as he prepares to make his mark at international level once more.

"In all the competitions, this was the year I have been at my best condition physically," he explained, having undergone minor knee surgery before the start of a campaign where he scored 32 times across all competitions. 

"I didn't have that many injuries... I only lost a week and a half in the whole year.

"For me it was fundamental to end the year the way I did and now I'll try to keep in the same shape with the national team.

"When you're not called up you imagine the worst, but I tried to do things right at my club, not thinking about it. Thank God, for my form and for the way I ended the season, I'm here today."

Aguero's presence could lighten the workload on his great friend and Argentina captain Lionel Messi, who did not play international football for nine months after Russia 2018.

"Well, of course, nobody likes losing," Aguero said of the Barcelona superstar. "Of course, he has suffered in his last competitions, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. 

"He's not okay but he's grown up, he has experience. He knows football is like this, you have moments of joy but sometimes there's sadness.

"He knows best, he arrived here well and we all know how much Leo desires to be here and the happiness he radiates. He's fundamental.

"We know very well he loves the national team and I think you [the media] should realise by now."

Argentina host Nicaragua in a friendly next Sunday before facing Colombia in their Copa America opener on June 15.

Argentina struggle to win the World Cup even with Lionel Messi because they do not play as a team, according to former United States president Barack Obama.

South American giants Argentina are two-time world champions but have not added to their 1986 triumph, despite boasting all-time leading goalscorer and five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi.

Argentina – back-to-back Copa America runners-up – crashed out in the last 16 at the 2018 World Cup following their run to the final four years earlier in Brazil.

Obama, who served as US president from 2009 to 2017 before being replaced by Donald Trump, discussed Argentina's struggles on Tuesday.

"Even people that we consider geniuses work with other people in order to develop their style," Obama said at the EXMA Conference in Bogota.

"In Argentina, even though Messi is wonderful, they have problems winning the World Cup."

"My advice to young people is that we have to recognise very few people achieve great things on their own," Obama added.

Obama's comments come as Messi and Argentina prepare for next month's Copa America in Brazil.

Argentina have been drawn in Group B, alongside Colombia, Paraguay and guests Qatar for the showpiece tournament.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina will face Nicaragua in an international friendly in San Juan on June 7 before flying out to Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni admits it was difficult to leave players out of Argentina's 2019 Copa America squad but is confident he has chosen the country's 23 best players.

Paulo Dybala has made the cut despite a disappointing season with Juventus, while Manchester City's Sergio Aguero has been called up for the first time since last year's dreadful World Cup campaign.

However, there is no room for Inter striker Mauro Icardi after a controversial season with the Serie A club, which saw him left out of the team and stripped of the captaincy.

While conceding he had doubts during the selection process, Scaloni is now content he has a squad capable of winning the tournament for the first time since 1993.

"We believe that these are the best players we have at this moment," he told a media conference. "Some were left out due to injury, but they were always in consideration.

"When you have so many players of a good level to choose from, there are always doubts. It is difficult to explain everything, but the final decision is always about what is best for the team.

"We suffer when we have to leave a player out. It's our job, but it's not easy for us.

"We want people to identify with all these guys. We are convinced that they are the best for the moment. We are clear about what we want and we know what our idea is."

Argentina will play Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in the group stage and Scaloni is expecting tough tests against all three.

"Colombia is one of the most powerful teams in South America; they have great players," he added.

"Paraguay is a very competitive team and Qatar won the Asian Cup by playing very well. It is going to be a complicated group."

Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero have been included in Argentina's squad for the 2019 Copa America, but Mauro Icardi misses out after a difficult few months at Inter.

Icardi has failed to impress this year at club level, with a combination of contractual issues and injuries seeing him left out of the team and stripped of the captaincy.

He scored for only the second time in 2019 during Inter's 4-1 defeat to Napoli on Sunday, but both of those goals have come from the penalty spot and he did little to catch the eye in general.

Manchester City star Aguero is in the squad, however, returning to the selection for the first time since Argentina's disappointing World Cup campaign, when he scored two goals in four games.

Aguero has enjoyed another strong season at club level and will be confident of transferring that form to the Copa, where he will be joined with City team-mate Nicolas Otamendi.

Dybala also makes the cut despite an underwhelming campaign with Juventus, in which he seemed to suffer from the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Lionel Messi is expected to captain the team as one of the senior stars, while Matias Suarez – also 31 years of age – is a surprise inclusion among the strikers, with the River Plate man having won his only two senior caps this year.

There is also a shock in defence, with Milton Casco chosen ahead of Gabriel Mercado, a mainstay over the past few years.

Manchester United pair Sergio Romero and Marcos Rojo also miss out.

Argentina will play Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in the group stage of the tournament in Brazil.

 

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Agustin Marchesin (Club America), Esteban Andrada (Boca Juniors); Juan Foyth (Tottenham), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Renzo Saravia (Racing Club), German Pezzella (Fiorentina), Ramiro Funes Mori (Villarreal), Milton Casco (River Plate), Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City); Roberto Pereyra (Watford), Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Marcos Acuna (Sporting CP), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Club America), Rodrigo De Paul (Udinese), Exequiel Palacio (River Plate), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis); Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Matias Suarez (River Plate), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter).

Former Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque says it would have been "a dream" to have Lionel Messi in his squad at international level.

Barcelona star Messi, who joined the club's academy in 2001, was eligible to play for Spain and Argentina but opted to represent the country of his birth.

His international career has been a relative disappointment compared to his club achievements, with Argentina having lost three Copa America finals and the World Cup final of 2014 with Messi in the side.

The 31-year-old has enjoyed astounding success with Barca, though, and his latest spectacular performance on Wednesday saw him reach 600 club goals with a double against Liverpool to inspire a 3-0 triumph in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.

And Del Bosque, who guided Spain to glory at the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, admits he would have loved the opportunity to have Messi in his team had the Royal Spanish Football Federation convinced him to play for La Roja.

"The Federation made every effort to get Messi to play for Spain," he told Radio Villa Trinidad.

"Lionel refused because he loves his country. His arrival would have been for the best.

"Messi is Messi - there is only one. It would have been a dream to coach him."

Messi has scored 48 goals in all competitions this season to inspire Barca's treble pursuit.

Having already won LaLiga, they face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final this month and are now firm favourites to reach another Champions League final, where they will face either Tottenham or Ajax at the Wanda Metropolitano.

Lionel Messi being criticised for his failure to deliver a major title for Argentina is unfair, says Diego Simeone.

Messi could not inspire Argentina to success at last year's World Cup, having to drag his side through the group stage before exiting to eventual winners France in the round of 16.

The Argentina captain then took a sabbatical from international duty but was criticised for missing a friendly against Morocco after making his return in a defeat to Venezuela last month.

Messi confirmed a pelvic injury meant he had to pull out of the squad and has said his son asked him: "Dad, why do they crucify you in Argentina?"

But Messi will again shoulder his country's burden of expectation at the Copa America this year and Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone feels the forward is under too much pressure.

"I respect everything, everyone has an opinion. Messi was close to winning the World Cup [in 2014], he did not win it unfortunately," Simeone told Goal. 

"Some people criticise him constantly, but Messi is extraordinary, how many Ballons d'Or has he won, how many goals has he made? How many times has he managed to give Barcelona a certain way to play? Without him, it would not be the same.

"The criticism towards Messi is not fair, not at all, especially in Argentina, they all compare Messi - why in Barcelona ​​yes and in Argentina not?

"It is not difficult to know why, it's easy, in Barcelona there are some players and a team that supports him and in Argentina there are no such players, as happens to Cristsiano Ronaldo in Portugal, because Portugal are not Juventus or Real Madrid.

"The teams strengthen the great player, it's easy."

Argentina are rebuilding for the Copa America under Lionel Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli after the World Cup, with Messi back in the fold after a nine-month absence.

But Simeone is unsure which direction the national team should take after a series of major disappointments, losing the 2014 World Cup final and in two Copa America finals despite Messi's presence.

"It's very difficult to talk from the perspective that I'm not in that place. If I ask that question to a fan, what would he do in that situation, he would not know what to do if one day he is a coach," former Argentina midfielder Simeone added.

"Being a team manager is one thing, being a national manager is another, there is a whole country behind [you] with a ruthless football and passion culture. It generates another environment that has nothing to do with being a club manager.

"What I would like to do is more than having a team, having a quality or another, is to have the peace to be able to sustain everything that surrounds the manager and it is not seen, that it is not only to choose players, to create a system or to make a tactic.

"The one that assumes that role must be able to take that role and that is the most difficult part of football."

Argentina and Colombia have been confirmed as co-hosts of Copa America 2020.

The two countries were officially named host nations on Tuesday by CONMEBOL, who earlier this year rejected a proposal from the United States.

CONMEBOL confirmed on Tuesday that the expanded tournament, comprising 38 matches, 12 more than the current format, will initially be split into two groups of six teams.

These groups will be a South Zone - Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and a guest nation - and a North Zone, made up of Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and one further invited country.

Four teams from each group will qualify for the quarter-final stage.

In announcing the decision, CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said: "The central objective of this change is to provide more facilities to fans and to bring the matches of the national teams geographically to the South American public.

"The fan will be able to enjoy at least five of his national team matches, which reinforces the spectacle and the sporting celebration."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni has been discharged from hospital following a cycling accident.

El Pais reported Scaloni had been admitted to the Hospital Universitari Son Espases in Mallorca following the incident on Tuesday.

Initial reports suggested the 40-year-old's injuries were serious but a short statement posted on Twitter by the Argentine Football Association (AFA) confirmed he was on his way home.

"Argentina trainer Lionel Scaloni today suffered an accident while riding his bicycle," the statement read.

"He is currently on his way to his home after a medical discharge."

Scaloni then tweeted to thank well-wishers and posted a picture that showed him wearing a neck brace and sporting dressed facial wounds.

"Thank you very much for the messages received, a couple of stitches and home! Thank you all," he tweeted.

Former Deportivo La Coruna, West Ham and Lazio midfielder Scaloni enjoyed a loan spell at Mallorca towards the end of his playing career and has based himself on the Spanish island in order to keep better tabs on Argentina stars playing in Europe.

Scaloni was initially appointed on an interim basis following Argentina's chaotic World Cup campaign under Jorge Sampaoli last year.

He saw Lionel Messi return to the international fold for last month's friendly matches, although a 3-1 defeat to Venezuela did little to encourage optimism ahead of June's Copa America, where Argentina have been drawn against Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in Group B.

Lionel Messi would provide the same inspiration if he played for Australia instead of Argentina, said Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde after the captain's latest top-class display.

Messi scored both goals as Barca beat Catalan rivals Espanyol 2-0 at Camp Nou on Saturday to take another step towards defending their LaLiga title.

On the day Messi moved above Andres Iniesta into second place in Barca's all-time appearances list, he opened the scoring with a free-kick that deflected in off Espanyol captain Victor Sanchez.

Messi later added his 31st LaLiga strike of the season to settle the derby, the in-form forward having hit eight goals in his last four club appearances.

During the international break, Barca's captain returned to Argentina action after a nine-month absence following the World Cup in a friendly loss to Venezuela.

But he was then criticised in his homeland for pulling out of the Argentina squad to face Morocco, with Messi defending his decision by revealing he has been carrying a pelvic injury since December.

"Messi would be the same playing in Australia," Valverde told a news conference. "I do not enter into things with his country.

"I can only say that, for me, it's a luxury to coach him. We try to make him happy and content, because that makes him much better."

Barca are back in action on Tuesday with a trip to Villarreal before facing nearest LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid at Camp Nou.

Valverde must also plan for next month's Champions League quarter-final against Manchester United, who knocked out Paris Saint-Germain in the last round.

A congested fixture list could affect Barca's hopes of clinching a treble, eclipsing the Liga and Copa del Rey titles they won under Valverde last term.

And the Barca boss - who still feels Atleti can catch his side - accepted he will have to take difficult decisions over team selection, with Messi among those who may be given games off to recover fitness.

"Taking into account the calendar we have, we have to throw in the whole team," Valverde added after Barca's fifth straight LaLiga win reinforced their cushion from Atleti. 

"The games are coming very quickly. We'll see if Messi is one who is rested or not.

"Three years ago, on matchday 29, Barcelona had eight points more than Atletico and 12 more than [Real] Madrid. 

"Four days later, they were tied with Atletico and had one more than Madrid. Things that can happen to us or to anyone."

Former striker Gabriel Batistuta said Gonzalo Higuain is mistreated in Argentina following his international retirement.

Higuain called time on his Argentina career on Thursday, hitting back at critics who only highlighted his costly misses in three successive tournament finals.

The 75-time international, who scored 31 goals to rank sixth all-time, spurned opportunities in the 2014 World Cup final as well as the 2015 and 2016 Copa America deciders.

Batistuta – Argentina's second highest scorer behind Lionel Messi – leapt to the defence of the maligned 31-year-old.

"It seems to me he's been a great striker," Batistuta said of Higuain, who is on loan at Chelsea from Juventus. "Respected all over the world. And treated in a bad way in Argentina.

"We were talking about the fact that strikers maybe miss 200 goals, but then make one, two or three goals in the right moments, and so they are always remembered for those few ones they scored, compared to the ones they failed.

"And I said: 'there's also the opposite'. Higuain scored 200 goals, and missed three at the wrong time; and in Argentina, unfortunately, he is remembered for that.

"When he is, instead, a great striker, one of the best we've seen in the last years on a global scale."

 

Lionel Messi says he has been carrying a pelvic injury since December after being criticised for withdrawing from international duty.

Messi had not played for Argentina since the World Cup but returned to the fold in a friendly defeat to Venezuela this month.

But he pulled out of the squad to face Morocco in another international friendly citing injury, much to the frustration of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation.

Messi faced criticism in his homeland as a result but he hit back in an interview with Buenos Aires-based FM Club 947.

"Somebody says whatever they want to say about me and then people believe it and I'm painted as the son of a b****," the Barcelona captain said.

“It has become the custom to say things about me. They invent things about me when I am not there. Nothing surprises me.

"The truth is I came back to the Argentina team with a pubis injury that I have been carrying since December and I have been training less and not playing all games.

"Pubis injuries are complicated; you cannot shake them off from one day to the next. I feel better but I have to take care of myself.

"I wanted to play both games with Argentina but after the first game I had some pain and I decided to rest so as not to aggravate the injury. It is improving all the time but it is not completely cleared up."

Barcelona, 10 points clear at the top of the LaLiga table, return to action on Saturday with a Catalan derby at home to Espanyol.

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