Football

World Cup's like a revolver to Messi's head, says Sampaoli

There is so much pressure on Argentina superstar Lionel Messi at the World Cup that it is almost like putting a revolver to his head.

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That is the view of Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli, who made that remark in his book My Heartbeats: Ideas Regarding the Culture of Play, which will be released next week.

In excerpts from the book that were published in Viva, the weekend magazine of Argentine daily Clarin, Sampaoli said: "Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn't win it, he's shot and killed.

"As a result, he can't enjoy his talent. What I find is that the negativity surrounding international football damages Messi."

The 30-year-old, who has won the Ballon d'Or five times, has yet to win any major silverware on the international stage despite having reached the final of Copa America and the World Cup.

The Barcelona talisman, who missed last Friday's 2-0 win over Itally, is set to face Spain at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium tomorrow morning (Singapore time) after hamstring and thigh issues kept him out earlier.

"Leo has to play like he does for his club, to put him into another structure is madness," added Sampaoli, who had suggested that football owes Messi a World Cup after the superstar scored a hat-trick to help them clinch the must-win qualifier against Ecuador last October.

"Against Ecuador, I was a bit strong in my tone suggesting that football owed Messi a World Cup," he said. "However, I knew he was going to do it for us at the vital moments."

Football