Buenos Aires, Dec 27 (CNMSports): The president of the Argentina Football Association (AFA) has said superstar Lionel Messi "never left the national team".
"Messi never left the national team. I think his love for the jersey is so great that he will be there whenever we call him up. Knowing that it's up to the coach, not him," Claudio "Chiqui" Tapia said on Wednesday in an interview published by AFA, reports Efe news.
The FC Barcelona striker has not played with Argentina since the team lost to eventual winners France in the round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Lionel Scaloni, who became coach of Argentina after Jorge Sampaoli resigned, has relied mainly on young, inexperienced players in the matches -- all of them friendlies -- since taking charge of the team.
Tapia and Messi were photographed together two weeks ago in Madrid following the Copa Libertadores final at the Santiago Bernabeu between Argentine clubs River Plate and Boca Juniors.
"I found him very happy, very content," Tapia said of Argentina's captain.
"I am very happy with everything (Messi) represents, because he represents our country and I believe he is the standard-bearer of global soccer and the best player in the world, without a doubt," Tapia said.
Argentina's next big competition is the 2019 Copa America tournament in Brazil.