Argentina captain Lionel Messi made an intervention into national team selection this week, declaring that striker Gonzalo Higuain should be picked as part of the Albiceleste’s World Cup squad. Higuain lost his place to Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi and Boca Juniors’ Dario Benedetto for Argentina’s final matches in the South American World Cup qualifiers under coach Jorge Sampaoli. But in an interview with local channel TyC Sports, broadcast Wednesday, Messi described Higuain as “a fundamental player, he needs to be there.”
Argentina’s five-time world player of the year added that Higuain “is one of the best number 9s in the world, he shows it every weekend at Juventus.”
Higuain was a starter for Argentina in the World Cup final against Germany in Brazil 2014 and in the finals of the Copa América in 2015 and 2016.
“I think this time away from the national side has done him good and judging by the times we spoke, it has made him see things differently,” Messi said.
Having qualified for next year’s World Cup in Russia, Sampaoli recently said he was going to consider calling up Higuain again. Messi also admitted in the interview that if Argentina performed poorly in Russia, then the squad’s older players would have to make way for a renewal of the national team.
“If we do badly in this World Cup, we all have to disappear from the national team.It’s going to be very complicated to continue… peoplealso get tired and want to see new faces,” he said. Messi said the team would have to knuckle down if it was going to lift the World Cup.
“We have to improve if we want to be champions, as we are today, we do not have enough,” he said, adding that “there are better teams,” naming Brazil, Germany, France and Spain.
The Barcelona star, however, said he remained optimistic. “I think that to improve we have the necessary time in these matches and before the World Cup, we will have a month [to prepare] and get ourselves for the start,” he said.