Argentina have allayed fears of an injury to Lionel Messi just two days before the start of the World Cup after he sat out the beginning of an open training session on Friday.
Messi is Argentina’s talisman and with the world’s media assembled to catch a glimpse of him during Friday’s training there was alarm when he did not appear.
But, as reported by Argentine outlet Olé, Messi began that session in the gym, away from the main group, with Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes, Angel Di María and Nicolas Otamendi, before joining the rest of the team after the media left.
Argentina began open training on Friday without Lionel Messi, who was working in the gym
Messi (pictured earlier in the week) joined the main group for training later in the session
There has been a level of concern around Messi’s fitness since he appeared to pick up an issue in a friendly against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier in the week.
Argentina ran out 5-0 winners thanks to goals from Messi, Di Maria, who scored twice, Joaquin Correa and Julian Alvarez.
But there was a sharp intake of breath when Messi hit the deck momentarily in the match.
He clutched his foot before being helped to his feet and he went on to see out the 90 minutes.
Nonetheless, speculation around Messi’s fitness only intensified after it appeared he would play no part in the open part of training.
There was a boost for Argentina with Lautaro Martinez (middle) shaking off a thigh injury
Messi was all smiles as Argentina arrived in Qatar and Argentina are not taking risks with him
Argentina are based at Qatar University for the World Cup and had 14 players and three goalkeepers start the training session.
Open training allows the world’s media to watch for 15 minutes before they are escorted out and players can begin to fine-tune their game-plans for their group games.
Messi entered the training pitch after the media had left, Olé report, and boss Lionel Scaloni will hope his star man can find peak form and fitness in time for their opening match against Saudi Arabia in four days time.
There was better news on the injury front for Scaloni with Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, Roma’s Paulo Dybala and Sevilla’s Papu Gomez all fit enough to train. All three have been carrying injuries.
But a reported 400 journalists descended on the university campus to catch a glimpse of Messi, only to leave disappointed.
He managed to score and complete 90 minutes in a friendly this week against the UAE
Argentina fans were sent into a frenzy this week as Messi went down during a friendly with UAE
Messi’s involvement is absolutely central to ex-England striker Wayne Rooney’s belief that Argentina will go on to win it all in Qatar.
During an interview with The Times, the 37-year-old also backed Messi to lead Argentina to World Cup glory.
He said: ‘For me, Argentina are the favourites. Unlike in 2018, they have plenty of good, solid players around Lionel Messi such as Lautaro Martínez, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul and of course Angel Di Maria.
‘Winning the Copa America last year will have given them confidence and has taken a bit of pressure off them.
‘The climate will suit them too. The only thing they are missing is a No 9, that focal point in attack, but I think they will be really dangerous.’
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
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