Argentina should ‘enjoy’ Messi, Di Maria while they can – Scaloni

Argentina national team manager Lionel Scaloni encouraged fans to enjoy the exploits of Lionel Messi and Ángel Di María at the Copa América this summer, as the pair could be featuring together at the tournament for the last time.

Scaloni’s defending champions kick off the Copa in the opening match against Canada on Thursday night in Atlanta with the chance to become the first South American side to win three major tournaments in a row after lifting the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

“We managed to have a process in the national team. The balance, beyond the titles, is that we have enjoyed a lot,” Scaloni said in a news conference. “It is a pleasure to see them train and play, how they give themselves. I am not worried about the future of Messi and Di María. It doesn’t make much sense to think about when they’re gone. Let’s enjoy them now, we’ll see what happens later.

“Messi is fine, he’s happy. I have renewed ideas and strength. It’s a nice challenge to defend the title.”

With an appearance all but assured on Thursday, Messi will break the record for most at a Copa América, with 34 to his credit thus far since his debut in the 2007 edition of the tournament. Di Maria, on the other hand, has 23 appearances in the Copa, with the two players having become an integral part of the team that led La Albiceleste to the title in 2021.

Though Di Maria announced his retirement from the national team following Copa América, Messi’s international future remains unknown with a World Cup in the U.S., Mexico and Canada looming in 2026.

Both Scaloni and Leandro Paredes anticipated a difficult match against Concacaf side Canada and said Argentina won’t be underestimating Jesse Marsch as he leads his young team into action for the first time at a tournament since being named head coach.

“Canada is a really good team, they have a lot of quality players. They have a new coach that brings in new ideas,” Scaloni said. “They are a difficult rival, whoever thinks it’s easy would be wrong. We are prepared to play against them they are a difficult rival, and it’s the first game of the tournament.”

“For us, every rival is considered difficult. We try to face them the same way, with the ideas of the coaching staff to get results,” Paredes added. “Every rival has a good and bad side, and we want to take advantage of that.”

Scaloni would not reveal his starting lineup for the opener, though he said he has a clear idea of the XI that will feature on Thursday.

“All players are available for tomorrow, and we decide who plays depending on what’s best for the team in the moment,” Scaloni said. “I have no doubts with the starting 11, but I will tell my players first. They still don’t know it yet.”

Argentina will continue their Copa campaign on June 25 against Chile and finish group play against Peru four days later.