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SPORTS | 31-05-2019 07:32

Agüero enjoying full fitness as Albiceleste gear up for Copa América

Manchester City striker says he's in his best physical shape ahead of tournament in Brazil, as he defends Leo Messi from criticism at press conference.

Argentina striker Sergio Agüero says he has never been in better physical shape heading into a major international tournament.

The Manchester City forward has joined up with the Albceleste squad as it prepares for the Copa América, which starts next month in Brazil.

"Of all the tournaments [with Argentina], this is the year I have been at my best physically, without so many injuries," Agüero said. "Now I need to do the best with the national team, be at that same level."

Agüero played in the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups and several Copa Américas, but was often dealing with injuries in the lead-up to the tournaments.

Addressing the press, Agüero defended superstar Lionel Messi , saying he still "loves" the national team despite more than a decade of disappointments.

Despite trophy cupboards laden with club accolades, both Messi and Agüero have suffered much heartache with the Argentine national team.

Messi, Argentina's all-time leading scorer, and Agüero were part of the Argentine squads that lost three major finals in successive years at the 2014 World Cup, 2015 Copa América and 2016 Centenario Copa América. Messi was also a beaten finalist in the 2007 continental tournament.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's national team frustrations are well known and at 31 he is fast running out of opportunities to win a major international honour with his country.

He has already retired from international duty once before – albeit briefly – and took eight months off following Argentina's World Cup last 16 exit just under a year ago.

"We all know the desire that Leo has when he comes here," said Agüero from Argentina's training base just outside Buenos Aires. "The happiness he transmits is fundamental for us because we know very well how much he loves the national team."

Disappointment

Despite winning Spain's La Liga for the 10th time with Barcelona this season, it was a disappointing one for Messi even at club level. 

He made no secret of his desire to win the Champions League this season, even admitting before the campaign began how much he wanted to bring that "beautiful cup back to Camp Nou."

He's won it four times with Barca but not since 2015, and in the last three seasons the Catalan giants have been eliminated after crushing away defeats – the last two of those despite taking a three-goal advantage into their second leg matches from the first leg at the Camp Nou.

At the weekend, Barca also lost 2-1 to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

"No-one likes to lose. Obviously he's been disappointed in the last competitions after the Champions League and Copa del Rey" defeats, said Agüero. "But he's great, he's experienced, he knows football is like this, that there is joy and in some moments there is sadness... He knows that better than anyone."

The Argentine national team has been training at home this week ahead of a pre-Copa friendly against Nicaragua on June 7.

They will then leave for Brazil where Messi and his partners will begin their Group B campaign against Colombia in Salvador on June 15.

They will also play Paraguay and Asian champions and the next World Cup hosts Qatar, first time guests to South America's major showpiece.

While Messi and Agüero have more than 200 caps and over 100 international goals between them, much of coach Lionel Scaloni's squad is made up of inexperienced youngsters.

"Most of us are new, there's a new coaching staff. [But] Argentina is Argentina, us players will fight until the end for Argentina to be the best," said Agüero.

- TIMES/AP/AFP

 

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