Argentina Messi’s team not mine, admits Sampaoli

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MANCHESTER, March 23: Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli accepted on Thursday the two-time world champions’ chances at the World Cup in Russia will depend far more on Lionel Messi than his own influence.
Sampaoli was drafted in for Argentina’s final four matches of a faltering qualifying campaign, but it was Messi’s brilliant hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Ecuador in their final qualifier that ensured they didn’t miss out on the World Cup.
“This is going to be his team,” said Sampaoli, ahead of Friday’s friendly against Italy at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium.
“He is the best and is in a stage of maturity that he can carry the team on his shoulders. It is more his team than mine.”
For all his success at club level with Barcelona, Messi has never won a major international tournament with Argentina.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner will again carry the bulk of his nation’s expectations. But at 30, this could be Messi’s final opportunity to crown his glorious career with a World Cup.
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero will not be fit to face Italy due to a hamstring injury and Sampaoli said he is also unlikely to play against Spain in Madrid on Tuesday.
“We have talked to City about Aguero. If there is a substantial improvement he could travel but I see it as difficult because of the short time left,” said Sampaoli. (AFP)