BUENOS AIRES (AP) — Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni is hoping Lionel Messi's decision to stay at Barcelona will benefit the national team when World Cup qualifying starts this week.
Messi pushed for a move away from the Spanish club this offseason only to change his mind after the club refused to let him leave for free, opting to stay instead of launching a potentially ugly legal battle against the club.
Scaloni told a news conference on Wednesday that he played no part in the decision but was happy to see the issue resolved so that Messi could focus fully on his performances on the pitch.
“From afar we wanted it to be sorted, obviously we wanted him to play and to be in form,” Scaloni said. “It is positive that he has stayed because he has started to play, he knows the environment and that is the only thing I can say.”
Argentina will start its qualifying campaign against Ecuador on Thursday, as Messi begins another attempt at an elusive World Cup title. Argentina lost the 2014 World Cup final to Germany and was ousted by eventual winner France in the round of 16 in 2018.
“I talked to Messi when the issue with Barcelona was sorted, he was serene and calm. Now that he came we had a long conversation. Leo is happy for being with the national team, and he is doing well at his club now," Scaloni said. “We want to get to this World Cup for many reasons, and one of the main ones, obviously, is that Leo is able to play.”
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports