Argentina ‘can relax’ on Lionel Messi’s fitness worries – Barcelona coach

The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Lionel Messi receives less criticism than Cristiano Ronaldo after a bad game.
The ESPN FC crew debate whether or not Lionel Messi receives less criticism than Cristiano Ronaldo after a bad game.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has told Argentina the country does not need to worry about Lionel Messi’s fitness going into the World Cup this summer.

Messi, 30, missed Argentina’s friendlies against Italy and Spain in March with a hamstring injury but has featured in all five of Barca’s games since he returned from international duty, starting four of them.

However, he failed to score in either leg as Barca were stunned in the Champions League quarterfinals by Roma. His performances against the Serie A side have even led to concern in his homeland that he’s still not fully recovered from his injury problems.

The games continue to come thick and fast for the Catalan side, too, with Tuesday’s trip to Celta Vigo in the league followed by the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.

With that final in mind, Valverde revealed he may rest Messi against Celta, although he assured Argentina that they have no reason to be concerned.

“There’s a possibility that [Messi] rests, as is the case with other players,” he said in a news conference on Monday.

“But there’s nothing to worry about. He played well the other day against Valencia. I don’t know what else to say, but they can relax in Argentina. There’s a long way to go before the World Cup.”

Lionel Messi will be fit to play for Argentina in June, says Ernesto Valverde.

Messi has been an ever-present for Barca this season, making 48 appearances in all competitions and scoring 39 goals.

In total he has missed just four games, three in the early rounds of the Copa del Rey and the league match away at Malaga when he was given special permission to remain in Barcelona following the birth of his third son.

Following their European exit, Barca have just seven games remaining this season — six in the league and one in the cup.

They need just seven points from their remaining La Liga fixtures to secure their seventh title in 10 years, while they’re also attempting to become the first-ever side to remain unbeaten through an entire top-flight season in Spain.

Barca’s final league game of the season will be played the weekend of May 20, almost one month before Argentina kick off their World Cup campaign in Russia against Iceland on June 16.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.