MOSCOW – Lionel Messi will be in the line-up for this weekend’s friendly with Russia, but not for the Nov. 14 home match with Nigeria, Argentine national coach Jorge Sampaoli said on Friday.
The Russia-Argentina contest on Saturday will be the inaugural event at Moscow’s renovated Luzhniki Stadium, one of the venues for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“It’s more my issue than his. I proposed this. Maybe Leo wanted to play that (Nigeria) match too. Never in his history with the national team has Leo proposed to skip a match,” Sampaoli told a press conference at Luzhniki.
The coach said that because he had no “power to tell the club (FC Barcelona)” how many minutes Messi should play, he would not hesitate to rest his superstar in international matches when he thought it was warranted.
Messi “has absolutely nothing to prove,” Sampaoli said, acknowledging that coaching “the best player in the world” and the sport’s global ambassador is a “big responsibility.”