Lionel Messi has made 158 appearances for Argentina, finding the target on 80 occasions, but will not be adding to record-setting hauls of caps or goals in the latest round of 2022 World Cup qualification.
That is because the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner has been left out of Lionel Scaloni’s squad for upcoming fixtures against Chile and Colombia.
Overlooking Messi is not a decision that the Albiceleste take lightly, given his talismanic qualities, but an opportunity has presented itself for a national captain to sit things out. GOAL takes a look at why that decision has been made.
Why is Lionel Messi not playing for Argentina in World Cup qualifiers?
Messi is not playing for Argentina in games against Chile and Colombia in order to allow him to fully recover from the effects of Covid-19.
During the Ligue 1 winter break taken in by Paris Saint-Germain, Messi made the most of an opportunity to head back to Argentina and spend Christmas in his homeland. It was during that trip to South America that the legendary 34-year-old contracted Covid-19.
An enforced spell in self-isolation delayed a return to the PSG fold and left Messi struggling to recapture full match sharpness as quickly as he would have liked.
He posted on Instagram at one stage: “As you know I had COVID and I wanted to thank you for all the messages I received and tell you that it took me longer than I thought to be well but I'm almost recovered and I'm really looking forward to getting back on the field.”
A return to domestic action, after a month without competitive football, was made off the bench in PSG’s 4-0 win over Reims on January 23.
Messi was given just 27 minutes of game time in that contest and still has just one Ligue 1 goal to his name this season – along with five efforts in the Champions League.
With form and fitness issues for him to address at Parc des Princes, Argentina boss Scaloni opted to rest his skipper for clashes with Chile and Colombia.
Explaining that decision, the coach, who will be absent from the touchline after posting his own positive coronavirus test, has said: “Clearly we would love to have Messi here with us.
“I spoke to him and he told me that Covid hit him hard. It is key for him to get well, and that is why I decided that the best option was for him to stay at his club.”
A big selection call from Scaloni, who is set to hand the armband to Angel Di Maria in Messi’s absence, was made easier by the fact that Argentina have already secured qualification for Qatar 2022.
What is Argentina’s record with and without Lionel Messi?
Messi has been included in 164 squads for Argentina, with 143 starts taken in with his country and 15 appearances made from off the bench.
He has been an unused substitute on six occasions, while missing five games through suspension and 18 as a result of injury.
Table correct at time of writing on 27/01/2022
In total, since making his debut against Hungary on August 17, 2005, Messi has not figured at all in 58 fixtures for Argentina.
Without him, the Albiceleste have won 32 of those matches, drawn 13 and they have come unstuck in 13 – giving them a win ratio of 55 per cent.
In the 158 games that he has played for his country, Messi has emerged victorious in 98.
He has been involved in 31 draws and 29 defeats, meaning that Argentina are successful in 62 per cent of the contests he graces.
When Messi figures, the South American nation suffer setbacks only 18 per cent of the time, with that figure jumping to 22 per cent when he plays no part in proceedings.
His 80 international goals have been spread across various competitions, with six coming on a World Cup stage – with a man that reached a final in 2014 still looking to land the grandest of prizes.
Messi has netted 34 times in friendly fixtures, 27 in World Cup qualification and 13 at the Copa America – with a long wait for senior international glory brought to a close at that event in 2021 after finishing as a runner-up on three previous occasions.