Lionel Scaloni said the number 10 jersey is reserved for Lionel Messi as Argentina hold on to hope that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will prolong his international career.
Messi’s Argentina future remains uncertain after not making himself available for international friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia. The 31-year-old is reportedly weighing up whether to continue on the international stage following Argentina’s tumultuous World Cup campaign in Russia, where the South American giants lost to eventual champions France in the last 16. Messi has dominated discussions since Scaloni replaced Jorge Sampaoli on an interim basis and it was no different on the eve of Tuesday’s match against Colombia in New Jersey. Asked about Messi and his number 10, Scaloni told reporters: “There is only one answer for your question: every player who was in the World Cup kept his number, the ones who came here. “In this time, the 10 shirt belongs to Messi and it will stay this way until he decides if he will continue with us or not. “We aren’t closed to that chance so I chose to keep this number for him. In the future we will see, but if you look at the players who played the World Cup you will see they kept their numbers, and we wait for the future to see what happens, but so far no one is using the 10 because it is exclusive for him and that is my decision. There is nothing else about this.” Barcelona superstar Messi was absent as Argentina outclassed Guatemala 3-0 in California on Friday. Scaloni’s new-look side were too good thanks to first-half goals from Gonzalo Martinez, Giovani Lo Celso and Giovanni Simeone. “It is obvious that when the best player of the world [Messi] is not in the pitch playing with Argentina, the team loses, there is no doubt about it,” Scaloni added. “But our idea is to assemble a team in case he is with us again so he feels comfortable with us, nothing else. In the mean time we make a team, we call a group of guys who understand what implies to play with these colours, then in the future we will see what happens.”