Argentina coach Diego Maradona has dismissed suggestions he might rest Lionel Messi for tomorrow's final Group B clash against Greece, insisting it would be a "sin" to deprive the public of seeing the best player on the planet.
Prior to the start of the FIFA World Cup™ there had been concerns about Messi`s state of health following a gruelling season with Barcelona, and the 22-year-old then played the full 90 minutes in Argentina`s opening two matches against Nigeria and South Korea. With Argentina having won both those games to establish a three-point lead at the top of Group B heading into the final round of fixtures, it might have crossed Maradona`s mind to give Messi a break for the clash with Greece.
And that prospect seemed even more likely as Maradona tested a radically different team in training to the one that beat South Korea 4-1, with Messi one of those not involved. However, Maradona insisted today that the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year would feature in tomorrow`s match in Polokwane.
"Lionel Messi always wants to play and I thought I should give him a break (in training), but if you have a player as good as Leo, who is the best player in the world, I think it would be a sin not to give Messi to the people, to the team, and leave out the player who can certainly make the difference in a match," said Maradona, whose side are not yet guaranteed a place in the last 16 as three teams can still finish on six points in Group B. We of course wanted to give Lionel Messi a break (in training). He will play."
Maradona also played down Messi's lack of success in front of goal. The Barça ace had plenty of chances to score against both Nigeria and South Korea but could not make the most of them, with great goalkeeping denying him on a number of occasions.
"If Messi is having a bad run then let him continue with that bad run, because I'm extremely pleased with Messi's performances," said Maradona. "He goes out to play and help his team-mates. Leo helps define the match and creates things for the other players."