Argentina might have had to crawl through the elimination stages to book a spot in football’s biggest showdown, the FIFA World Cup 2018 but they cannot be written off with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala in the fray. It was Messi who single-handedly kept Argentina in the World Cup by producing one of his finest performances for the national team. Argentina’s World cup campaign will certainly revolve around Messi’s form and presence, if he is on top the team can expect to be on top, if not then the team might have to salvage the minimal chances that they would be offered. Keeping Messi’s vitality in mind, Argentina’s national football association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia has urged the Argentine captain to play fewer games for his club Barcelona.

According to Tapia, the lesser Messi plays, there are lesser chances that he will injure himself and can fully commit to Argentina in the World Cup. However, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has turned a deaf ear to the Tapia’s requests and has started Messi in 33 out of 39 games. Messi has mostly been kept out of the Copa del Rey clashes. The last game he did not start in was Barcelona’s 1-1 draw against Espanyol in the King’s Cup where he had to be recalled after the first half to ensure a draw for his side.

Tapia said he has had a word with the Barca talisman about keeping himself fresh for the World Cup, “We have spoken to Messi about taking care of himself and about playing less for Barcelona,” he was quoted as saying in a report. He also talked about other players who are performing well for their respective sides and are expected to unite for Argentina with an aim to lift the trophy after finishing as runners-up four years ago in Brazil. “I hope all the players arrive at a level they are at the moment. Sergio Aguero is playing outstanding right now and Lionel Messi is always at the top of his game,” said the Argentina football President. “That`s vital for the directors and the coaching staff,” he added.

Tapia also revealed that Argentina are in talks with Catalonia over holding a friendly game before the World Cup but given the political tensions between Spain and Catalonia, it can be a controversial match. If it goes through the clash will see Messi come up against some of his Barca teammates Sergio Roberto, Gerard Pique among others. However, the Argentine administration is not yet close to the deal. “(Argentina coach) Jorge (Sampaoli) told me it would be good for us from a football point of view and it’s important for us from a financial point of view, but we haven’t closed the deal yet,” said Tapia. Messi has started the season in fine form with 29 goals in 36 appearances across competitions. He has been the catalyst behind Barcelona’s rampant run this season.