An Argentinian report has claimed that Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi's level of influence over the national side is so great, that a dispute over a game of football tennis with Giovani Lo Celso caused him to demand his exclusion from the team.
According to Clariń, the five time Ballon d'Or winner exerts a great deal of power over the national side. Allegedly, the 31-year-old told manager Jorge Sampaoli not to pick either Federico Fazio (who barely featured) or Lo Celso (who didn't play at all) at the World Cup, with the latter choice attributed to a falling out caused by Messi being thrashed at football tennis.
Messi's representatives are believed to have flatly denied the claims. Additionally, the report suggested that the four-time Champions League winner has a fractious relationship with the Argentina coaching staff, and flew off the handle when assistant coach Sebastian Beccacece touched him on the shoulder while correcting his play during a training session.
It is unclear whether the claims over Messi's conduct are true, but the Argentina camp were clearly disjointed during their disappointing World Cup campaign. La Albiceleste meandered their way out of their group while suffering a 3-0 hiding against Croatia in the process, before being unceremoniously dumped out of the competition by France in a 4-3 last 16 thriller.
Despite enjoying a glittering career with Barcelona, winning a host of trophies, it seems unlikely that Messi will manage to add a World Cup to his impressive silverware collection. By the time the 2022 tournament rolls around, the tenacious forward will be in the twilight of his career, and will need to stay in top physical condition to have a chance of making it to Qatar.
In other news, England manager Gareth Southgate has claimed his side will look to use their World Cup as a stepping stone to improvement, following their 2-0 loss to Belgium in the 3rd place playoff. The Three Lions surprised fans and pundits alike with their overall tournament showing, providing their first semi-final since 1990.