Argentina boss apologises for Messi absence, but refused to risk Barcelona star

Lionel Messi Argentina

Argentina rounded off their trip to the United States with a 2-1 win over Ecuador, but the continued absence of Lionel Messi has loomed large.

Lionel Messi has been in nothing short of sensational form in 2015 since losing out on the Ballon d’Or to Cristiano Ronaldo in January.

Since the turn of the new year, the 27-year-old has bagged 19 goals and 11 assists for Barcelona in just 18 appearances, including three hat-tricks and a pair of braces.

Meanwhile the Catalan outfit have surged to the summit of La Liga and into the Champions League quarter-finals, also booking a place in the Copa del Rey final.

The Argentine’s feats have seen him restore the type of scintillating form he is renowned for, quickly dismissing memories of a 2014 that saw him surpassed by Ronaldo.

But Messi’s remarkable charge has been stopped in its tracks over the past week – albeit not due to a dip in quality, and not at the Camp Nou.

Suffering from a swollen foot, the Argentine watched from the bench as his Albiceleste side saw off El Salvador and Ecuador in friendlies on American soil.

Messi’s trip to the United States to showcase his talents in Washington D.C. and New Jersey was hotly anticipated across the pond, but onlookers were left wanting.

Argentina boss Gerardo Martino openly stated that Messi’s chances of playing Tuesday against Ecuador were less than remote after he was left out of Saturday’s El Salvador clash.

But the manager of the South American giants still sought to explain the situation following the 2-1 win over Ecuador at MetLife Stadium, even apologising for Messi’s absence in quotes given to journalists in the media area.

Martino told a press conference: “First of all, we waited until the last minute to make a decision. Unfortunately this is something that we couldn’t change.

“We understand that there were expectations of Leo. But really he hasn’t been in a condition to play.

“As I said this week in the press conference, it really hurts him to put on his boots. His foot hurts a lot and there was no way to have him play.

“I wasn’t going to take a risk. We would have done it, but he just wasn’t in condition. I ask forgiveness of the people and I apologise to everyone. But unfortunately he wasn’t ready to play."

Fielding Messi in New Jersey would have carried an even greater hazard than usual as the match began under difficult weather conditions, with heavy snow falling.

The pitch had already been soaked by hours of rain earlier in the day, and Martino clearly understood the implications of Mother Nature’s refusal to cooperate.

With plenty to play for at Barcelona in the coming months, it’s understandable that there would be hesitance on account of both player and manager.

Argentina also have this summer’s edition of the Copa America to consider, with the Blaugrana star’s health key to the Albiceleste’s ambitions of winning the tournament for the first time since 1993.

Martino’s men have a final warm-up friendly scheduled with Bolivia on June 6, before taking on Uruguay, Paraguay and Jamaica in Group B when the Copa America gets underway the next week in Chile.

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