Lionel Messi is not part of Argentina’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers because his coronavirus infection “affected him a lot,” coach Lionel Scaloni said on Thursday.
Messi tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 2 and has barely played any football since late December.
The 34-year-old was on the field for less than half an hour as a substitute in Paris Saint-Germain’s 4-0 victory over Reims this past Sunday.
With Argentina already having booked their spot at Qatar 2022, he was left out of the squad for the qualifiers against Chile and Colombia.
“Obviously we would love for Messi to be here. I spoke with him and he told me that COVID affected him a lot,” Scaloni said at a news conference.
“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.”
The Argentine coach will also miss the trip to Chile despite having recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
“I completed my isolation period several days ago, but I continue to test positive. To enter Chile, a negative test is needed,” he told reporters in the virtual meeting.
Scaloni confirmed that Angel Di Maria will wear the captain’s armband for Argentina in Messi’s absence, both in Chile tonight and Colombia on Feb. 2.
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