Barca won't hold back Lionel Messi
Highlights: Paraguay 2-5 Argentina
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino says he has no intention of asking Lionel Messi not to play for Argentina in their final two World Cup qualifiers.
• Johnson: The race to Brazil
The Albiceleste sealed qualification for next summer’s finals in Brazil by winning 5-2 in Paraguay on Tuesday, meaning October’s games at home to Peru and away in Uruguay are now of less importance for Alejandro Sabella’s side.
Reports in Spain had suggested that Barca would like Messi not to have to travel to South America, enabling the player to get some much needed rest.
But the new blaugrana coach -- who was in charge of Paraguay at the 2010 World Cup -- said he was against the idea of players not turning out for their national team whenever possible.
“We have made no request to the Argentine federation for them not to call up Messi, he wants to play with his national team,” Martino said. “As a former national coach it would take a lot for me to ask a player not to go with his national team. I won’t do anything.”
The Argentine Football Association were always likely to knock back any request from Barca to not select the national captain, according to the governing body’s president Julio Grondona.
The veteran administrator had previously told Esports Cope that this would not be fair on teams like Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, who are all battling with Uruguay for qualifying spots.
“Argentina are playing against other teams who are still playing for qualification,” he said. “For us it would nice to be able to do it, but if it damages other teams, we must be careful. We have no interest in damaging anyone. We will see when the moment comes what must be done.”
Messi himself has said he has heard nothing about any plan to skip the games, and Grondona has insisted the Catalan club have not made contact to suggest such an idea.
“I am not aware of any official request from Barca,” he said. “We have a permanent friendship with Barcelona. We have a tacit agreement that the player comes first, and then everything else.”