Lionel Messi should be appreciated by fans of all countries at the FIFA World Cup as he will be missed like Roger Federer “and more” when he retires, says Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni.
Messi scored twice after coming off the bench in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, their penultimate friendly before Qatar 2022.
La Albiceleste head to the finals as one of the favourites, having won the Copa America last year.
That was Messi’s long-awaited first major international honour, and this could be the 35-year-old’s last chance to win a World Cup, having lost in the 2014 final.
Although the Paris Saint-Germain superstar remains on top of his game, scoring six goals across his past four matches for club and country, Scaloni knows he cannot go on forever.
And the Argentina boss expects Messi’s eventual retirement will be received with the same outpouring that met tennis legend Federer’s decision to quit the sport last week.
“[Messi] is like Federer,” Scaloni said after the Jamaica game. “He retired and what happened when he retired? Everybody [was] excited, everybody is thinking, ‘he won’t be here anymore, he’s not going to play anymore’.
“How many of us would like to see Federer play tennis? Because it was wonderful to watch him play. The same will happen with [Messi] and more, because football is a sport that moves much more.
“So, let’s enjoy him. Everyone enjoys him regardless of the country, it’s wonderful to see him.
“I have the possibility of training him, but I would be a fan, I would pay a ticket to see him and I would buy his shirt, regardless of the country.
“So, the only thing left is to enjoy him, because I don’t know if something like this will ever be repeated. So, you have to enjoy him and nothing else.”
Scaloni, meanwhile, has said that he is “excited and grateful” at the prospect of continuing as Argentina coach through to the 2026 World Cup.
Chiqui Tapia, president of the Argentine Football Association, stated an agreement had been reached between both parties for Scaloni to remain in his post for the next four years.
A new deal would be a fine reward for Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli after the 2018 World Cup, where Argentina were beaten by eventual champions France in the last 16.
Under Scaloni, Argentina won the Copa America last year to end a drought at major tournaments dating back to 1993.
A routine 3-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday, in which Lionel Messi scored twice off the bench, also saw Argentina stretch their unbeaten run to 35 matches.
Scaloni is now focused on continuing his work with the national team. “I’m excited and grateful,” Scaloni said about Tapia’s announcement. “I want to continue, who wouldn’t want to do it with the Argentine national team.
“I have the best relationship with the president, we met today, everything is on track.”
The fixture against Jamaica was Argentina’s penultimate game before the World Cup with a friendly against the United Arab Emirates to come before the tournament in Qatar.
Asked about his team’s World Cup chances, Scaloni added: “I do not go to Qatar with an inflated chest. There are great teams and it is very difficult to say who can win the World Cup.
“Whatever it has to be in the World Cup [it will be], but we are going to leave every last drop of sweat [out there].”
Argentina’s first group-stage match takes place on November 22nd against Saudi Arabia. (Fifa.com)