Marseille have confirmed the exit of Jorge Sampaoli as coach, with the Argentine departing Stade Velodrome just under a year and a half after his arrival.

The 62-year-old succeeded Andre Villas-Boas at the helm of the Ligue 1 outfit last March, and guided them to a second-place finish behind champions Paris Saint-Germain in his only full season in charge.

Yet just weeks after earning Champions League qualification, the former Albiceleste boss is on his way after reportedly growing frustrated with a lack of transfer activity and ambition from the club.

"[We] would like to sincerely and warmly thank the work of Jorge Sampaoli," read an official club statement.

"We are satisfied with the progress made and the emotions experienced together, but following a long reflection, the two parties [...] have agreed to put an end to this stage [of their careers].

Club president Pablo Longoria will now begin a search for a successor to Sampaoli, who leaves with 36 wins from 67 games in charge, and with a season still to run on his contract.

Angel Di Maria would be a great signing for Juventus who can emulate former Real Madrid team-mates Karim Benzema and Luka Modric by playing at an elite level in his mid-30s.

That is the view of Iker Casillas, who played alongside Di Maria when Madrid won their 10th Champions League title in 2013-14.

Casillas feels the Argentine will be keen to feature regularly for the Bianconeri to cement his place at what could be his fourth World Cup later this year.

Di Maria is departing Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after spending seven years in Ligue 1, and is widely expected to join Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus in the coming days.

The 34-year-old's agent revealed this week that only the "final details" of his contract in Turin remain outstanding, and Casillas believes his former team-mate will thrive in Italy.

"Di Maria is a great move," the 2010 World Cup winner told La Gazzetta dello Sport. 

"Angel with [Federico] Chiesa, [Dusan] Vlahovic and [Paul] Pogba... what a great team! And he will want to prepare well for the World Cup.

"He is a very cautious guy who has always taken great care of himself physically. He has never suffered serious injuries. I think he is in great shape. 

"Here in Europe, he has always played at a high level, in big clubs. Di Maria will give Juve a new step.

"There is a World Cup in November and it is clear that he is looking for a team where he can play regularly and prepare in the best possible way for the challenge in Qatar.

"Even at 34 years old he is a great player. Age counts only relatively now, careers have lengthened. 

"Without reaching the 44 years of my friend [Gianluigi] Buffon, there are other examples of players over 30 who are doing very well and playing to the fullest level. You just have to think about Benzema and Modric."

Di Maria won six trophies during a four-year spell with Madrid, which he ended in spectacular fashion with a man-of-the-match performance in Los Blancos' Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid in 2014.

Recalling Di Maria's performance as a central midfielder in that 2014 match, Casillas argued his versatility would be a great asset for Juve.

"Juventus bets on a player who knows how to do a lot of things in different areas of the pitch," he added. 

"When we won 'the Decima', [Carlo] Ancelotti changed his position in the middle of the season and he played very well.

"He can play both up front and in the centre of the field, he is an intelligent guy who knows football well. Angel has impressive shots and can decide games by himself."

Angel Di Maria is concerned he has yet to do enough to guarantee himself a place in Argentina's World Cup squad due to uncertainty surrounding his future at club level.

The 34-year-old is without a club after leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer following a seven-season spell in the French capital.

He has been linked with a number of teams, with Serie A giants Juventus reportedly close to agreeing a one-year deal for the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player.

Speaking earlier this week, meanwhile, newly appointed Rosario Central boss Carlos Tevez revealed he is hoping to bring Di Maria back to the Argentine club.

Di Maria will not have long to settle at his new side before Qatar 2022 begins on November 21, with Argentina in Group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland.

And despite playing a key part in his country's successful qualifying campaign with three goals, the free agent is not taking his place in the 26-man squad for granted.

"The only one guaranteed to be in is Lionel Messi," Di Maria, who has appeared at three previous World Cup finals, told TNT Sports. 

"Four months from now you don't know. I have to change clubs, adapt again, play and feel good – that will make a difference."

 

Di Maria is Argentina's fourth-most capped player of all time with 122 appearances, behind only Messi (162), Javier Mascherano (147) and Javier Zanetti (145).

He made 31 appearances for PSG in his final season at the Parc des Princes and registered 13 goal involvements – five goals of his own and a further eight assists.

That is a tally only Neymar (21), Messi (25) and Kylian Mbappe (60) could better among PSG players in the 2021-22 campaign.

Juve remain the favourites to sign Di Maria and the attacking midfielder confirmed the Italian side's interest, as well as commenting on previous links to Barcelona.

"Juventus are the biggest club in Italy and one of the teams interested in me," he said. "Right now I am thinking things through, but I am focused on my holidays and family.

"Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world and I have always had to play against them in the past."

To suggest the next 12 months may well define Lionel Messi's career would be doing a disservice to what we have witnessed up close over the past 18 campaigns. 

From boy wonder to the greatest player ever in the view of many, and now into a new chapter with Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentina forward has nothing to prove to anyone.

And yet on the day he turns 35 – the average age of retirement for a footballer – questions continue to be asked of Messi. 

Will he win a World Cup – still in the eyes of many the real barometer of a truly great player, even in the era of the Champions League – before he retires? 

Can he prove himself in a different country after a mixed first season in France? Both of those questions will be answered before he celebrates his 36th birthday in a year's time.

Stats Perform looks at how Messi's game has already changed, and whether he is still capable of inspiring club and country to glory in possibly the biggest year of his career.
 

MESSI 2.0

Ten months have passed since the shock announcement that Messi was bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona to join Ligue 1 giants PSG.

By his own high standards, Messi's first campaign in Paris was far from great. He scored 11 goals in 34 appearances, down on the 38 scored in his last season with Barca.

And those 11 goals came from an expected goals (xG) value of 16.8, meaning he scored 5.8 goals fewer than he should have based on the quality of his chances.

Among players in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions last season, only six others had a worse return, with Lille striker Burak Yilmaz (8.11 differential) topping the list.

There were extenuating circumstances, of course, with Messi himself recently opening up on just how badly he struggled after testing positive for coronavirus in January.

The La Masia product also had to adapt to life outside the place he had called home for more than two decades, seeing him take on an entirely different role.

While his scoring figures dropped considerably, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a campaign.

The majority of his assists last season came from a left-of-centre position outside the box, where he predominantly played alongside Neymar and just off Kylian Mbappe.


RONALDO SHOWS THE WAY

The 11 goals Messi scored at the age of 34 is his lowest return since the eight he netted when aged 18 and still in the infancy of his Barcelona career.

While that can be put down to a change of scenery, and being in the unfamiliar role of having to play second-fiddle to Mbappe, age is also surely a factor.

At 35 – or 34 as he was last season – Messi will inevitably have to rely more on his footballing brain than his legs to give him an advantage over opponents.

As showed by Cristiano Ronaldo, though, age is just a number when it comes to the very best, the Portugal star having scored 75 goals in 102 games since his 35th birthday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, four months shy of his 41st birthday, has scored an impressive 112 goals in 174 appearances since hitting 35, an age often perceived as being 'over the hill'.


ALL EYES ON QATAR

Playing a supporting role may well be something we must come accustomed to when it comes to club level, but for Argentina Messi very much still remains the main man.

That was clear to see earlier this month when, in his final game in a gruelling campaign, Messi scored all five of Argentina's goals in their thumping friendly win over Estonia.

That five-goal showing rightly attracted plenty of focus, though it was arguably four days earlier in his side's 3-0 'Finalissima' victory over Italy that Messi truly showed his quality.

Messi pulled the strings from a slightly deeper position as Argentina, who also boast the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, showed their credentials.

He assisted two of Argentina's three goals, including a delightful turn to leave Giovanni Di Lorenzo trailing in his wake before setting up Martinez for a simple finish. 

On the back of ending their 28-year wait for silverware in 2021 with victory at the Copa America, Lionel Scaloni's men now look good value to challenge for the World Cup.

Regardless of any more titles he adds to his collection at PSG, Messi lifting the most famous trophy of them all in Qatar later this year would be the defining image of his career.

Different now he may be, but Messi has a chance to show in his 35th year that he has plenty more left in the tank to turn a great career into the greatest.

Eight medical personnel who treated Diego Maradona prior to his death will stand trial for alleged criminal neglect.

On Wednesday, a judge in Argentina ordered a culpable homicide trial for the individuals, including Maradona's family doctor and nurses, with evidence they failed to take "action that could have prevented the death" in November 2020.

The Argentina and Napoli icon died at the age of 60 while recovering from a blood clot, which came after years of battling with cocaine and alcohol addictions.

Maradona was found dead two weeks after the procedure in a rented house in Buenos Aires where he was brought after being discharged from hospital, having suffered a heart attack.

Argentina's public prosecutor convened a panel of 20 medical experts last year who concluded that Maradona's treatment was rife with "deficiencies and irregularities" and said he "would have had a better chance of survival" in an adequate medical facility.

Prosecutors asked for Maradona's caregivers to be put on trial, stating he had been abandoned "to his fate" following a verdict from the medical experts that he was neglected for a "prolonged, agonizing period".

A date for the trial has not been set but the eight will stand on accounts of a legal definition of homicide characterised by negligence committed in the knowledge that it may lead to a person's death.

They risk sentences ranging from eight to 25 years in prison, though all of them have denied responsibility and are currently in pre-trial detention.

Carlos Tevez has expressed an interest in bringing Angel Di Maria back to Rosario Central after being confirmed as their new head coach, as he pledged to emulate former Juventus boss Antonio Conte upon entering the dugout.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juve forward Tevez was appointed as Central's new boss on Tuesday, having ended his illustrious playing career earlier this month.

Speaking at his unveiling after signing a one-year contract with the four-time Argentinian champions, Tevez revealed his interest in coaching his former international team-mate Di Maria. 

Di Maria – who made 39 appearances for Central at the start of his career before heading to Europe with Benfica - is leaving Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and has attracted interest from the Bianconeri, but Tevez plans on speaking with him soon.

"I haven't spoken to Di Maria", he said. "I barely have time to speak to my wife! I haven't spoken to her. 

"But who wouldn't like to have him? Di Maria means a lot to this club. When the situation calms down, I'll call him and ask him what he wants to do.

"We know him. He would bring a lot. He would bring his experience to young players. In addition to experience, he has great technical quality. He has played in the biggest clubs, it would be easy to be his trainer."

Di Maria is the fourth-most capped player in the history of the Argentina's national team with 122 appearances (after Lionel Messi with 162, Javier Mascherano with 147 and Javier Zanetti with 145), and will hope to appear at his fourth World Cup in Qatar later this year.

Meanwhile, Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles during his playing career, and featured under a host of big-name coaches including Alex Ferguson, Massimiliano Allegri and Roberto Mancini.

But the 38-year-old says Tottenham boss Conte, who signed him for Juventus in 2013, is his foremost coaching inspiration.

"When you stand on the other side of the line, the player dies, that's one way of putting it." He said. "You start to think differently, much colder. Today I am a coach and I like this profession. 

"I have a great reference who was Conte at Juventus, he was one of those who taught me the most as a player.

"I'm going to try to get the team to play at least a little bit, or half the way his team played."

Carlos Tevez is back in football as head coach of Argentinian side Rosario Central.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus forward Tevez, who began and ended his playing career with Boca Juniors, hung up his boots in early June.

His appointment with Rosario Central was confirmed on Tuesday as the 38-year-old was handed his first coaching job by the top flight club.

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both CONMEBOL's Copa Libertadores and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

He was a regular member of the Argentina national team for many years, featuring alongside the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but missed out on the squad for the 2014 World Cup where the team finished as runners-up to Germany.

Four-time Argentinian champions Rosario Central revealed on Tuesday that Tevez has signed a one-year deal, announcing on Twitter: "The Apache becomes the new blue-gold coach, after signing a contract with the club for 12 months."

Prior to Tevez signing his contract, goalkeeper Gaspar Servio told TNT Sports: "For me, it's something special that Carlitos [Tevez] can come here. 

"If he does come here, the group will back him to the death."

Carlos Tevez could be set to take up his first head coaching role with Argentinian side Rosario Central, with the club's vice-president aiming to appoint the former forward next week.

Former Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus forward Tevez announced his retirement last month at the age of 38, citing the death of his father as the reason why he turned down offers to continue playing.

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

The former striker played his final game for boyhood club Boca Juniors in 2021, but could now be set to return to his homeland in a coaching capacity after four-time Argentinian champions Rosario Central confirmed their ambition to appoint him.

Vice-president Ricardo Carloni told TyC Sports: "The board accepted a proposal put forward by Tevez's staff, and we are now moving forward with the negotiations.

"We will discuss it this weekend. The proposal was approved by the board. The idea is that if all goes well, we could have him by Tuesday."

Goalkeeper Gaspar Servio, meanwhile, is enthused by the prospect of working under Tevez, telling TNT Sports: "For me, it's something special that Carlitos [Tevez] can come here. 

"If he does come here, the group will back him to the death. I hope he comes. He has a lot of experience as a player, and we are all ready to learn and to help Central."

Lionel Messi is "on Olympus" as one of the greatest players in history, and former Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo cannot believe he brought the star to Ligue 1.

Leonardo departed at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, with former Monaco and Lille transfer guru Luis Campos joining the Ligue 1 champions as a football advisor.

Coach Mauricio Pochettino is also widely expected to be heading for the exit door after failing to deliver in the Champions League, which is the crown jewel in the eyes of PSG owners Qatar Sports Investments (QSI).

However, Pochettino and Leonardo did manage to bring Argentina great Messi to Paris at the start of the season, ending a 17-year spell with Barcelona.

Messi ranked only behind Kylian Mbappe (45) for goal involvements for PSG in Ligue 1, with the former's 20 one more than Neymar, who was the final part of an incredible frontline trio.

Only Mbappe (70) created more chances than Messi (63) as well, but the Blaugrana legend's first year in the French capital was largely viewed as somewhat underwhelming, with just six top-flight goals scored.

Nevertheless, Leonardo reflected gleefully on securing the services of the 34-year-old along with his own achievements with PSG.

"We had thought about it a lot, yes. We had talked about it, but Messi had never thought too much about leaving Barcelona," he told L'Equipe.

"It was the last moments before his arrival that were decisive. Afterwards, everything becomes a bit more normal but, you made Messi's only transfer in his career!

"Chronologically, there is Pele, Maradona, Messi. He is on Olympus.

"So when I take stock of my last three years, I see a Champions League final, a semi-final, the 10th league title, seven national trophies and I signed Messi.

"There are two very significant moments for me, even if I don't like to pick out the best. The first is the signing, on the same day, of [Marco] Verratti and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic [in 2012].

"It was no coincidence that a youngster from the Italian second division and a world football star arrived at the same time. The second is Messi. These are two huge dates."

 

Mbappe rejected the advances of Real Madrid to extend his stay with PSG, signing a lucrative three-year agreement.

Reports indicated the World Cup winner was offered assurances relating to matters on and off the pitch.

While Leonardo has departed and Pochettino appears set to follow, the former suggests he did not know whether the Mbappe agreement held such clauses.

"It was the end of the season and maybe it was the time to decide things for the future," he added. "I wasn't told that, but I don't want to get into that kind of thing.

"The fact that they've managed to hold on to that player, a Frenchman and a Parisian, is important for PSG and for Ligue 1.

"Certain things which are said internally should stay that way. It's what I've experienced with the club. When the club wants to get rid of you, there's no nice way to say it's over."

Inter vice president Javier Zanetti expressed his admiration for Paulo Dybala as he confirmed the Nerazzurri are in continued talks with the striker.

Dybala will depart Juventus when his contract expires at the end of June, ending a seven-season stay with the Bianconeri, and Inter are among the frontrunners for the forward.

A host of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United and Tottenham, are also said to be interested in the Argentina international.

Reports in Italy suggest Dybala has already agreed terms with Simone Inzaghi's side, with the Juve star trading Turin for rivals Inter, who narrowly missed out on Scudetto success to neighbours Milan.

The 28-year-old would join – or replace – Argentina team-mate Lautaro Martinez, with Chelsea reportedly interested in signing the Inter striker.

While Nerazzurri great Zanetti would not confirm whether an agreement was already in place, he suggested talks are ongoing as he hailed Dybala.

"We are in talks," he told D-Sports Radio, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I admire Paulo and I wish him the best for his career.

"Dybala is a great player and will surely represent us [Argentina] at the World Cup.

"Inter have always had a lot of South Americans in their team, especially Argentineans. Now we have Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa. The club have faith in the Argentineans."

Lionel Messi was likened to Rafael Nadal by Lionel Scaloni after scoring all five of Argentina's goals in a 5-0 friendly rout of Estonia on Sunday.

Barcelona legend Messi moved to 86 international goals, two more than Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas, now leaving him fourth on the all-time men's list.

Messi's exploits occurred on the same day as tennis legend Rafael Nadal defeated Casper Ruud in straight sets to win a 14th French Open title and extend his record for most men's grand slam titles to 22.

For Argentina boss Scaloni, there are simply no more superlatives left for him to describe either man's seismic impact on the world of sports.

"I don't know what else to say. It's very difficult; it's like Rafa Nadal, what are you going to say?" Scaloni told TVP.

"It is preferable that the journalists speak, that they speak. You have no words left to describe it, and above all, for everything it generates."

The result saw Argentina extend their unbeaten run to 33 matches, fine form just five months out from the start of the World Cup in Qatar.

Messi had completed his hat-trick early in the second half before scoring twice more in the final 20 minutes.

Scaloni added of his talisman: "He is something unique, and it is a pleasure to have him in this group. It is a pleasure to train him, the entire coaching staff. And it's a pleasure his behaviour and how he toasts to his shirt.

"We only have words of thanks. I don't think he's just the heritage of Argentina; he's the heritage of the world, of world football. The day he doesn't play anymore, we are going to miss him."

Lionel Messi scored all five goals as Argentina made it 33 matches unbeaten with a 5-0 friendly win over Estonia on Sunday.

Coach Lionel Scaloni's side set a new national record of 32 matches unbeaten with the 3-0 Finalissima win over Italy on Wednesday, and they never looked like failing to extend that run – the longest currently intact in international football – against a limited Estonia outfit.

Messi got them on their way from the penalty spot, before doubling his tally with a sumptuous finish on the stroke of half-time.

He completed a treble early in the second half, before adding further goals inside the final 20 minutes as Argentina cruised to victory at Estadio El Sadar in Pamplona, Spain.

Argentina wasted little time in stamping their authority on the game, Messi stroking home from the spot in the eighth minute after Estonia goalkeeper Matvei Igonen wiped out German Pezzella.

Messi grabbed his second in the 45th minute, the Paris Saint-Germain forward superbly curling over Igonen from 10 yards after being played in by Alejandro Gomez.

Argentina's captain and talisman sealed a hat-trick two minutes after the interval, steering home Nahuel Molina's cross from the right wing from 10 yards.

Julian Alvarez and Rodrigo de Paul went close for La Albiceleste, before Messi netted a fourth with a cool finish past Igonen in the 71st minute after taking advantage of uncertainty in the Estonia defence.

He put the seal on a remarkable individual performance to make it 5-0 five minutes later, slotting home from 12 yards after a scramble in the opposition penalty area.

What does it mean? Argentina lay down World Cup marker

Despite not winning the World Cup since 1986, Argentina are among the favourites to triumph in Qatar later this year.

They will need to overcome significantly sterner opposition than Estonia to get their hands on the trophy, yet all the signs point to them being a side to be reckoned with, particularly if Messi plays like this.

Magical Messi

He had a subdued season with PSG, scoring just 11 goals across all competitions, but Messi was at his electric best here. The 34-year-old scored with all five of his shots on target, while he also made three key passes – a tally bettered only by team-mate Alejandro Gomez.

Wasteful Alvarez

New Manchester City signing Alvarez will hope Messi's finishing prowess rubs off on him, with the 22-year-old failing to find the back of the net with his four shots – three of which were on target.

What's next?

Argentina's attention turns towards Qatar 2022, although their warm-up games for the tournament have yet to be scheduled, while Estonia face Malta in the Nations League on Thursday.

Carlos Tevez has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 38, citing the death of his father as the reason why he turned down offers to continue playing.

Tevez enjoyed a glittering career, particularly in England where he played for both Manchester United and Manchester City.

As well as three separate spells at boyhood club Boca Juniors, he also spent time at Corinthians, West Ham United, Juventus and Shanghai Shenhua.

Tevez played his final game for Boca Juniors in 2021 before saying goodbye, though at the time he left the door open for a move to another team.

However, in quotes relayed by Mundo Albiceleste, Tevez said on Friday that even though he had received offers from Major League Soccer in the United States, he had stopped playing because he no longer had his "number one fan" after the passing of his father.

"I have retired, it's confirmed," he said. "They offered me many things, including from the United States. But that's it, I have given everything.

"Playing the last year was very difficult but I was able to see my old man. I stopped playing because I lost my number one fan."

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

He also played at two World Cups for Argentina, in 2006 and 2010.

Roberto Mancini vowed to start a new era with Italy as the Azzurri look to rediscover their Euro 2020 magic, but warned not to expect instant fixes as he cannot "invent players".

Italy lifted the European Championship last July, their first since 1968, with a penalty shoot-out victory over England at Wembley.

The Azzurri followed that up by failing to make a second straight World Cup, following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in March, which led to questions over coach Mancini's tenure.

Development problems were also cited with the Italian system, which was bemoaned for struggling to produce younger players for the national team with Serie A coaches reluctant to trust the youth.

Italy were 3-0 losers to Argentina in the 'Finalissima' on Wednesday, a meeting between the Euro 2020 winners and Copa America champions, and Mancini promised change after that game.

The former Manchester City coach reiterated his desire for new beginnings with Italy, although he does not expect quick solutions ahead of the Nations League opener at home to Germany on Saturday.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," he told reporters on Friday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is.

"Against Argentina we paid for the loss of players, one after the other. We weren't such a huge group and the injuries affected us: Argentina were better than us, they had fresher players and maybe it's the first game in three and a half years where we find a team that has put us under pressure, even if we made two mistakes on goals in the first half.

"It takes time, we cannot invent players and we know that we will have to suffer enough.

"The restart is from now. The new cycle starts again from tomorrow.

"The common thread is the same: looking for players with quality, speed, who they will not be like [Marco] Verratti and Jorginho who played in certain teams and therefore it will take a little longer.

"If we can give some minutes to these guys who have never played in the national team, and see them integrated well, it would be better."

Italy host Germany and Hungary before visiting England on June 11, with a return trip to Hansi Flick's side three days later capping off the internationals for this month.

Mancini believes that England and Germany pose two of the toughest tasks in international football at the moment, and cited Brazil, France and Argentina among the favourites for the World Cup in Qatar.

"We face the two strongest teams at the moment, Germany and England," he added. "They are among the best, they have great players and we take a lot of risks by changing a lot, it could be a good start.

"The most important thing will be to defend well and attack better. We face one of the strongest teams in the world along with Brazil, Argentina, France...

"Germany are technical, very fast when they counter-attack and come to press. They will be among the favourites for the World Cup victory in Qatar.

"We must defend all together and attack and press as we did for three and a half years: we did it for three and a half years with players who didn't seem able to do it, yet they have done."

Roberto Baggio has labelled Italy not qualifying automatically for the World Cup for their Euro 2020 triumph as "madness".

Italy were penalty shoot-out victors against England in the Euro 2020 last July, but followed that up with World Cup play-off qualifying defeat against North Macedonia in March.

That meant the Azzurri have failed to qualify for two straight World Cups, having missed out on both Russia in 2018 and Qatar four years later.

Roberto Mancini's side met the Copa America winners Argentina on Wednesday in a match between the champions of European and South American football, but were thoroughly outclassed in a 3-0 defeat.

Argentina displayed the gulf in class between the two sides, with some suggesting Lionel Scaloni's side could be favourites for the World Cup in November.

Scaloni declared in the build-up to the 'Finalissima' that Italy deserved a World Cup spot, and Baggio echoed those sentiments by suggesting the Azzurri should have been offered automatic qualification.

"The biggest shame is that Italy didn't go straight to Qatar having won the European Championship," Italy legend Baggio said on Thursday, as quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"It is scandalous, it seems crazy to me. Will these guys have earned a reward or not? If I had been in their place I don't really know how I would have reacted...

"It's the worst thing to accept, because in a 90-minute match anything can happen, one action goes wrong and you stay at home?"

Baggio was also quick to point towards the difference in quality between Argentina and Italy at Wembley Stadium.

"Scaloni's team has great talents, but the Azzurri have suffered greatly from being eliminated from the World Cup, the psychological backlash it was enormous," he added.

"The level of calmness of the two teams on the pitch was not comparable."

Italy will hope to somewhat make amends for the Argentina loss and World Cup failure when they host Germany in their Nations League opener on Saturday.

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