Lionel Scaloni says it is not the right time to think about Argentina's future without Lionel Messi but to instead enjoy the superstar forward while they still have him.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi revealed after already-qualified Argentina's 3-0 win over Venezuela on Friday that he will assess his future after Qatar 2022.

The Paris Saint-Germain star helped Argentina to a first Copa America triumph since 1993 last year and will now have his sights on a first World Cup crown since 1986.

Beyond the tournament at the end of this year, however, Messi admitted he "does not know" what the future holds in terms of his international career.

Scaloni will respect Messi's decision either way and accepts the 34-year-old – who has 81 goals in 159 caps for La Albiceleste – cannot continue forever.

"After playing in a World Cup, everyone has to make an assessment," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier against Ecuador.

"I'm not in the heads of my players to know what they're thinking. In any case, you have to enjoy it. You don't have to think about the future – enjoy their spectacular present.

"It's the rule of life that at some point [retirement] will happen. It's useless thinking about what will happen after the World Cup."

Angel Di Maria is another who appears to be nearing the end of his career with Argentina after posting an emotional tribute to supporters following the win against Venezuela.

The PSG attacker scored one and created another in that victory at La Bombonera – Argentina's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night," he said on social media. "It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina.

"Being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement. Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you."

Scaloni is unaware of any plans Di Maria has to call time on his international career, but like with Messi, he will let the player have the final say.

"I didn't see the post but I understood it as being about this team, I would imagine," Scaloni said. "I spoke with him some time ago. 

"There is an age for everyone. Many trips have passed and many matches, which I imagine is difficult.

"I don't know what's going on in his head. If it was his last home game, it could not have gone any better – it was as though he dreamed it.

"But first let us play these games, then the World Cup, and then we'll see. For now, let's enjoy it."

Angel Di Maria said "thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you" to the Argentina fans after playing what he expects to be his final international match on home soil.

Di Maria scored one and created another in a 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Venezuela at La Bombonera on Friday – La Albiceleste's 30th consecutive match without defeat.

Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi was the beneficiary of Di Maria's assist and, with Argentina already sure of their place in Qatar, suggested after the match he would consider his international future following the World Cup.

Di Maria was slightly more definitive in his own post-match comments, as the 34-year-old reflected on "a wonderful night".

"I'm just going to say thank you for the enormous love I have received," he wrote on his Instagram page.

"I always dreamed of everything I lived on this beautiful night. It was probably my last match with this shirt in Argentina, and being able to say that it was a wonderful night is an understatement.

"Thank you, thank you and a thousand times thank you.

"Now to congratulate the whole team for the great match that was played, a perfect match by all. We continue growing and dreaming together. Let's go Argentina!!!"

Di Maria has earned 121 caps and scored 24 goals since his Argentina debut against Paraguay in 2008.

The former Real Madrid and Manchester United winger is in line to go to his fourth World Cup, although he has scored only twice and failed to provide an assist across 13 appearances in the previous three.

In his final major tournament, Di Maria will hope to repeat his Copa America heroics, having scored in July's final against Brazil to secure Argentina their first silverware with Messi in the side.

Friday's assist for Messi was Di Maria's first in qualifying for Qatar – from 13 chances created – yet only the captain and Lautaro Martinez (both seven) can top his three goals in this campaign.

Lionel Messi will reassess his playing future with the national team after the World Cup in Qatar later this year, with retirement not ruled out.

Messi was among the scorers on Friday as already-qualified Argentina eased past Venezuela in World Cup qualifying at La Bombonera in Buenos Aires.

The 34-year-old guided Argentina to a breakthrough Copa America triumph last year, the nation's first since 1993. Argentina have not the World Cup since Diego Maradona led them to glory in 1986, with Messi getting closest in 2014 when they reached the final in Brazil.

Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain from Barcelona last August, admitted that his international playing future beyond Qatar was on his mind.

"I don’t know what I will do after the World Cup. I am thinking about what is coming," Messi told reporters after the Venezuela win. "After Qatar I will have to reassess many things."

He added: "I don’t know [about playing on], the truth is I don’t know. I think about what's coming next, only think about facing Ecuador [on Tuesday]. The preparation matches in June and September.

"Let’s hope these go the best way possible. But for sure after the World Cup many things will change."

Messi added that lifting his first major trophy with Argentina last year at the Copa would not have a bearing on his decision.

"It has been a while that I am happy here, since before winning the Copa," he said. "I am thankful for all this they make me feel every time I come to Argentina."

The PSG star's goal against Venezuela extended Argentina's impressive record of never losing in the past 12 years when Messi has scored.

Messi has represented Argentina 159 times, having debuted in 2005, scoring 81 goals.

Argentina remain undefeated in CONMEBOL World Cup qualification, after they defeated Venezuela 3-0 on Friday.

In the Albiceleste's first game at La Bombonera since the passing of Diego Maradona, it was a particularly emotional atmosphere and the already-qualified home side made it 11 wins from 16 qualifiers.

The raucous home support belied the largely lacklustre performance on the pitch, however, with Nicolas Gonzalez's goal giving them breathing room. Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi netted in the final quarter of an hour to seal the win.

The match's complexion was dominated by Argentine possession which did not exactly translate to many chances of substance.

In the opening 30 minutes, the Albiceleste managed three shots for a cumulative xG of 0.07 despite 71 per cent possession.

Yet the game soon opened up in transition, and Argentina could finally attack space that otherwise wasn't presented. From the ensuing chaos, Alexis Mac Allister quickly won back possession and played in Rodrigo De Paul, who then provided the assist across goal for Gonzalez.

Venezuela had an opportunity to equalise in the 39th minute through Josef Martinez with Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling, but he put his close-range shot off target from Salomon Rondon's ball.

Martinez again had an opportunity to equalise in the 54th minute, with a free header from close range but missed.

Argentina were able to effectively kill the game off late in the second half through substitute Angel Di Maria, chipping Wuilker Farinez after De Paul's ball over the top.

Messi then added a third three minutes later in the 82nd minute with a relative mis-hit from Di Maria's assist.

Lionel Messi has been urged by player-turned-pundit Jerome Rothen to quit Paris Saint-Germain after just one season.

The Argentine forward signed a lucrative two-year deal last August after being turfed out of Barcelona when the Spanish club realised they could not afford to register him.

It meant there was the tantalising prospect of Messi teaming up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at the Parc des Princes, but they have only featured together in fits and starts due to illness and injury.

PSG hoped to storm the Champions League but were eliminated by Real Madrid at the last-16 stage after squandering a 2-0 aggregate lead during the second leg in Spain.

Messi has managed just two Ligue 1 goals, and seven in all competitions, meaning that for the first time since 2005-06 at Barcelona, he could finish a season with a single-figure goals haul.

"The love story was never made with PSG," Rothen said on his RMC Sports programme. "For everyone's sake, it should end in June."

Barcelona have said they would not close the door on Messi returning to Camp Nou, now that they appear in a better position to sign players.

That still seems unlikely but may be an option on the table should Messi agree his time in France has been a rare career misstep.

Messi missed PSG's weekend defeat to Monaco due to flu but has been able to travel to Argentina this week to join up with his national team.

He was booed during PSG's recent 3-0 home win against Bordeaux in the wake of the Champions League exit, an unusual experience for a player used to being feted by fans.

According to Rothen, who played in the PSG first team from 2004 to 2009 and won 13 caps for France, there has been questionable commitment from a number of South American stars to the PSG cause.

"These things shock me," Rothen said. "He isn't the only one in a few years who has functioned like this with Paris Saint-Germain. We've seen South Americans pull faces from time to time, be physically a little amorphous and not play, then they are in full possession of their means with the national team.

"It's a shame the relationship [Messi] has with Paris Saint-Germain today. Will these 10 days [with Argentina] give him some comfort so that things go better with PSG? I'm still very sceptical about it."

UEFA has confirmed that the game between Italy and Argentina to be played on Wednesday, June 1 in the first "Finalissima" in 29 years, will take place at Wembley Stadium.

The match was initially announced in September, with confirmation in December that a "renewed and extended Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) lasting until 30 June 2028" had been signed between UEFA and CONMEBOL, leading to a game to be played in London on June 1.

The original iteration, pitting the winner of the most recent European Championship against the winner of the most recent Copa America, was previously known as the Artemio Franchi Trophy and was held in 1985 and 1993.

France beat Uruguay 2-0 in the inaugural edition in 1985, while the 1993 game saw Argentina – led by Diego Maradona – beat Denmark in a penalty shoot-out.

As had been expected, the venue for this year's encounter has now been confirmed as Wembley, where the capacity will be 86,000 and tickets sold on a "first-come, first-served basis".

A statement from UEFA on Tuesday confirmed that: "[It] will give fans the chance to watch the current champions of the world's two best footballing continents contest the coveted CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions.

"Twenty-nine years after its last edition, the relaunch of this legendary footballing encounter is the result of the long-standing partnership between UEFA and CONMEBOL and will serve as a catalyst for the global development of football – uniting countries, continents, and cultures, while also demonstrating to fans around the globe that football can be a force of good in turbulent times."

Wembley holds fond memories for Italy as the venue of their Euro 2020 final victory over England last year.

Lionel Messi made a getaway from Paris to bolster Argentina ahead of their final World Cup qualifiers on Tuesday.

Rumours surround the future of Messi at club level, with Barcelona appearing to hold the door open in case he fancies a return to Camp Nou, having left in tears last August.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's first season at Paris Saint-Germain is almost certain to end with a Ligue 1 title, but exits from the Champions League and Coupe de France have dampened spirits.

Messi was booed by PSG supporters in the recent 3-0 home win over Bordeaux, with that March 13 game following in the wake of defeat to Real Madrid in Europe.

He has another year left on his PSG contract after this season.

The national team captain was assured of a warm welcome with Argentina, having made the trip out later than planned after missing PSG's 3-0 weekend defeat at Monaco due to what coach Mauricio Pochettino said was a bout of flu.

The 34-year-old travelled by private jet with PSG team-mates Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes, ahead of a home game against Venezuela on Friday and a trip to face Ecuador four days later. Local media showed the pair arriving on Tuesday morning.

Argentina began their preparations for the games on Monday, ahead of the trio arriving from France.

Although Argentina have already qualified for the Qatar 2022 finals, Messi's availability comes as a boost to head coach Lionel Scaloni.

A host of injuries means Argentina's squad has been significantly weakened, and Inter striker Lautaro Martinez has pulled out after a positive COVID-19 test.

According to former national team defender Roberto Ayala, who is now Scaloni's assistant, Argentina have no worries about Messi.

Ayala told La Red earlier this month: "We see Messi well. He is a boy who is transformed when he comes to the national team. He is very contained by the group and also wants them to see him as part of the group."

Inter striker Lautaro Martinez will miss international duty with Argentina after testing positive for COVID-19.

Martinez was called up for Lionel Scaloni's squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifying fixtures against Venezuela and Ecuador.

But the 24-year-old will not feature after returning a positive test for coronavirus ahead of travelling to South America on Sunday.

Martinez will now serve a period of self-isolation in Italy and will hope to return to fitness for Inter's crunch trip to Juventus on April 3 in Serie A.

The Nerazzurri attacker has scored 14 times in 27 top-flight appearances this season, leading the club's scoring charts after finding the net once every 123 minutes on average.

Martinez, though, has just three goals in his last 11 league games – all of those coming in a hat-trick against Salernitana on March 3.

Indeed, he has been on somewhat of a barren run since the end of December, but he did end a 490-day wait for a Champions League goal with his sumptuous strike against Liverpool earlier this month.

Martinez will be hoping he can rediscover his form when Inter travel to Juve as Simone Inzaghi's side, who have played a game fewer, look to cut Serie A leaders Milan's six-point advantage over them.

Gonzalo Higuain is happy to have enjoyed a fruitful international career with Argentina, despite never getting his hands on a trophy for his country.

The attacker, who was a member of the Albiceleste team that finished second at the Brazil 2014 World Cup, retired from the national setup in 2019, missing out on the Copa America triumph last year.

Higuain, now playing for Inter Miami in MLS, is delighted for old team-mate Lionel Messi's long-awaited international success, but remains proud of his own career for his country.

"With my national team, I gave everything and I will never blame myself for that," Higuain told Stats Perform. "Unfortunately I couldn't get anything.

"But I'm happy for those who could because we've shared so many bad times, but nobody takes what we've lived through.

"We were a wonderful group and we played great football, but some of us stepped aside and those who followed made it."

Higuain also believes trophies must come secondary to how a player acts both on and off the pitch.

"I want to congratulate [Messi] for keeping trying, that's what life is all about," he added.

"I think that having won a Copa America or a World Cup doesn't make you a better person. The most important thing in life is the values one has and being a good person.

 "Unfortunately, people value you for what you win or what you lose, but I prefer to be remembered for being good people and having left something in each club I played.

"I was champion in each club, I scored goals and played in the best clubs, then whoever wants can evaluate you for one or two plays.

"I respect opinions, but my happiness does not change whether or not I have achieved something with my national team. If you are happy with yourself, then that's it.

"I congratulate them, but we continue our lives in the same way, I don't feel like a better or worse person for that."

Higuain will look to help Miami to a first win of the new MLS season against Houston Dynamo in their next outing.

The former Juventus, Real Madrid and Napoli forward scored 12 times in MLS last season but has only netted once so far this term, with Miami having lost three of their four games.

Lionel Messi might be going through strife with Paris Saint-Germain, but he has received a timely reminder of how highly he is valued by Argentina.

Ahead of this year's World Cup, Argentina assistant coach Roberto Ayala said Messi can find sanctuary with the national team and stressed club matters were of little concern.

Following PSG's spectacular collapse against Real Madrid in the Champions League last week, Messi was one of the players to be booed by the club's fans in Sunday's 3-0 Ligue 1 win over Bordeaux.

According to former River Plate and Valencia defender Ayala, Argentina have no worries about their captain and long-time talisman.

"For us it [the PSG knockout] is not an issue because it disconnects here with the national team," Ayala told La Red.

"We see Messi well. He is a boy who is transformed when he comes to the national team. He is very contained by the group and also wants them to see him as part of the group."

The Argentina team running to Messi at the end of the final in their Copa America triumph last year reflected the harmony within the playing group.

The team are safe in the knowledge their World Cup ticket is booked ahead of final qualifiers against Venezuela and Ecuador, for which Messi has been called up.

Irrespective of the quality of football, the harmony and Messi’s role within that is something head coach Lionel Scaloni and his staff will look to harness, heading to Qatar.

"A very nice group has been created,” Ayala said. "They enjoy it. Trainings go as we want. It becomes easy because they make it easy for us, there are no long faces."

Of Messi, he added: "For many, he is an idol but also at our side, and he wants to be treated like one of the others.

"I see him [Messi] as a leader not only on the field but with small gestures off it that you see. That is very valuable to us."

However, the 48-year-old assistant still feels the Albiceleste need to be tested by Europe's best before the tournament in November, and also hinted at the future possibility of joining the UEFA Nations League.

"I think Argentina is going to be summoned to the UEFA Nations League, which was set up so that they play against each other," he said.

"Later on, we will be able to participate and have the friction we need. We aim for the players to arrive in good condition."

Sergio Aguero "had nothing more to achieve" before his unfortunate early retirement, according to fellow Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain.

Aguero was forced to call time on his illustrious career last December due to a heart problem following chest pains in a draw with Deportivo Alaves on October 30.

The former Manchester City star was informed it would be too much of a risk to continue playing, having made just five appearances in all competitions for new club Barcelona, who he joined in July.

While Higuain understands the circumstances behind his retirement were far from ideal, the Inter Miami man believes Aguero will reflect on his achievements fondly.

"Clearly no player wants to retire like this, but also Kun [Aguero] made an extraordinary career," Higuain, who played with Aguero during their time with Argentina, told Stats Perform.

"He is the top foreign goalscorer in the Premier League. Nobody wants to retire like that, but if he looks back he had nothing more to achieve. 

"Perhaps he lacked a Champions League, but that does not change the quality of player that he is and how he will be remembered. 

"I wish him to be happy and find something he is passionate about. Health comes first. We shared many years together and from the heart I wish him the best."

Indeed, Aguero leaves behind a remarkable legacy. The 33-year-old scored 184 times in the Premier League at a rate of one every 108 minutes, the best frequency of any player to net at least 20 in the competition's history.

Even when you extend it to all competitions throughout City's history, nobody gets within 80 goals of Aguero, with his 260 well clear of Eric Brook (177).

He also boasts the most Premier League goals for a single club in history, with his final strike – a header against Everton in May – taking him past Wayne Rooney's haul of 183 for one club (Manchester United).

Aside from personal accolades, Aguero lifted the English top-flight title on five occasions, tasted success at Copa America in 2021 and raised the EFL Cup an astounding six times. 

Gonzalo Higuain is hopeful his former Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi will one day join him in Major League Soccer.

Higuain is preparing for his second full season in MLS with Inter Miami, having joined from Juventus in September 2020.

Although the striker's goalscoring exploits had regressed slightly towards the end of his time in Europe, Higuain was still regarded as a major coup for both Inter and MLS, where his older brother Federico has plied his trade since 2012.

MLS has previously been considered a competition where fading stars from Europe went to see out the remainder of their careers, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Steven Gerrard all doing just that.

But the perception is changing slightly – it is becoming a proving ground for young talent, a viable stepping stone to Europe for South American players and even a place for established European stars who are still at the height of their powers.

Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne highlighted the shift last month by agreeing an end-of-season move to Toronto despite being virtually in his prime. While any MLS switch for Messi, already 34, would look a little more like a final pre-retirement move, Higuain reckons he would enjoy himself.

"It is a very important league and it is growing a lot," Higuain told Stats Perform.

"Important players are coming and I think that in the future it will continue to grow much more.

"I hope [Messi goes to MLS] because it would be a benefit for MLS and for the country, and if he so wishes he would have fun and be happy here."

Inter begin their 2022 MLS campaign at home to Chicago Fire on Saturday, with the David Beckham-backed franchise hoping to enjoy a major improvement from last season.

Phil Neville's side finished 11th in the 14-team Eastern Conference in 2021, a place above Saturday's opponents, while their points total of 41 was better than only six teams across the two MLS divisions.

It would seem Inter may have struggled even more were it not for Higuain, who scored 12 times. His haul of nine non-penalty (np) goals matched up well with his np-xG (expected goals) of 8.7, suggesting the team could really profit from dependable finishing if the service to him improves.

And bettering that return in front of goal is high on Higuain's list of priorities.

"We are fine, looking forward to [the start of the season] and very excited," he said. "It's so close now, let's hope it goes better than last year and we learn from the mistakes made so that this year it doesn't happen again. We are excited to have a good year.

"I want to improve my numbers, which I did my whole career, improve year after year. I hope that this year I can do better to help the team qualify [for the playoffs] and be able to compete for MLS.

"I hope I can improve my numbers, that's my goal and that's what I've prepared this pre-season."

Sergio Aguero intends to go the World Cup in Qatar and hopes it will be as part of Argentina's backroom staff. 

Former striker Aguero experienced chest pain in a match against Deportivo Alaves in October and it was determined he had a career-ending heart issue. 

However, the 33-year-old still wants to be part of Argentina's campaign in Qatar this year and hopes a role can be found for him. 

"I'm going to go to the World Cup. We are going to have a meeting this week. I want to be there," he told Radio 10 in Argentina.

"The idea is for me to join the coaching staff. I spoke with [head coach Lionel] Scaloni and also with [Argentine Football Association president] Claudio Tapia. 

"We have to try to give it a go to see what can be done." 

Aguero joined Barcelona in the hopes of playing alongside close friend Lionel Messi after the pair helped Argentina end their 28-year wait for a senior international trophy at the 2021 Copa America. 

Yet the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner ended up completing an incredible switch to Paris Saint-Germain. 

Messi came in for criticism following his display in the Champions League last-16 first-leg victory over Real Madrid, which was decided by a solitary Kylian Mbappe goal after the 34-year-old had failed to convert a penalty.

"How are the French media going to kill Messi? Leo played well. Were they watching the game backwards? Leo always plays five levels above," said Aguero.

 

The World Cup qualifier between Brazil and Argentina that was suspended amid farcical scenes will be replayed, world governing body FIFA has confirmed.

September's contest in Sao Paolo was called off after Brazilian health officials entered the pitch early on due to an alleged breach of COVID-19 protocols.

The issue centred around visitors Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up, with travellers from the UK restricted entry to Brazil at the time.

Emiliano Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso, as well as Emi Buendia, were accused by the Brazilian government of providing false information on immigration forms.

FIFA launched an investigation at the time and, five months on, a verdict was announced on Monday.

As well as ordering the match to be replayed at a location and date to be set by FIFA, Martinez, Buendia, Romero and Lo Celso have been banned for two games.

The governing body says the suspension is "for not complying with the FIFA Return to Football International Match Protocol".

Brazil have also been fined 550,000 Swiss francs – the equivalent to £439,225 or $593,542 – and Argentina 250,000 Swiss francs.

South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina have already booked a place at Qatar 2022 with three games, including the rescheduled match, still to play.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is enthused by the signing of Argentina international forward Julian Alvarez from River Plate, describing the transfer as "a really, really good deal".

The Premier League leaders announced the signing of Alvarez on Monday, when the forward turned 22, in a deal worth a reported £14million ($18.8m).

Alvarez has signed a five-and-a-half-year deal but will stay with River on a loan that will last until at least July and could be extended.

He had been linked with a number of Europe's biggest clubs after scoring 24 goals in 46 games for River in all competitions during an impressive 2021.

That form saw him earn his first senior Argentina cap in June and he has gone on to feature a further five times for his national side.

"I saw him many times, I have the info about him and for the age, for the price, for many reasons and for the future it's a really, really good deal," said Guardiola.

"He is a guy who has a sense of goal, the quality, the movement in behind - a street player.

"The club decided OK, for that age and especially for the fact he stays under Marcelo Gallardo, one of the best managers in the world by far, he's going to develop again and again in this part of the season.

"He is so dynamic. I think when he is playing the goal is there in his mind with the way he finishes and makes the movements over five metres."

Describing what else he likes about the new signing, Guardiola added: "He has the desire, the passion and the strength without the ball.

"He is so young and you see that. He is hungry. At that age it is so nice to have. It can refresh so many things in a team when you have that.

"That is why I love to work with academy players, when they have the talent and skills, and they are good here.

"When that happens, it is so productive for the senior players that we have because they produce something new in terms of rhythm, with no complaints.

"I like to have 15 or 16 top players otherwise you can’t compete. The rest I like to have from the academy, but they have to be good, or it makes no sense.

"In pre-season he will come, he will join us and after that we'll see what happens."

Guardiola sees Alvarez playing in a central role for City when he joins up with them.

"Up front, in the middle," he said after being asked where Alvarez may fit into his line-up. "I see a player more in positions between the pockets and the striker. 

"A guy with this sense of goal has to play close to the goal."

City host Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday.

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