Lionel Scaloni is adamant that Lionel Messi remains an “essential addition” for Argentina despite his underwhelming Copa America campaign.
Much like last summer’s World Cup, Messi’s prolific Barcelona form appears to have deserted him once more. Currently, he has just a single goal to his name in four Copa America games via a penalty against Paraguay.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner caused Venezuela some problems in Friday’s quarter-final tie through set-pieces. Overall, though, he was again short of matching his usual brilliance and was contained well by the opposition defence.
While Argentina still won 2-0 through goals from Lautaro Martinez and Giovani Lo Celso to book a semi-final spot, Messi’s low-key display remained a main talking point.
The Barcelona superstar later confessed himself that he’s not been at the top of his game in Brazil.
But Scaloni has no doubts over the importance Messi has on the pitch despite his lack of goals.
“I think, along with many other people, that he [Messi] is an essential addition on the pitch,” said Scaloni, according to Yahoo.
“If you were here to see how much he contributes in the dressing room, how much he contributes on the pitch for his team-mates, maybe you would think differently.
“I can assure you he is a big part of the team, we have no doubts about that.”
Scaloni added: “Messi is Messi. He’s the best, above everyone else.”
The 41-year-old is relishing Argentina’s upcoming semi-final showdown with old rivals Brazil on Tuesday.
As hosts, the pressure will be on Brazil to come out on top and win a ninth Copa America. Although they barely managed to get past Paraguay in the quarter-finals after edging them 4-3 on penalties following a goalless draw.
“This match will be something beautiful to experience for all of you, for all football fans out there,” said Scaloni.
“For us on the bench, it will be harder. But it will be a beautiful game, very nice, and we will try to complicate things for them and try to win it.”