The Argentina coach claims the captain's public preference for 4-3-3 is nothing new and says he was not annoyed by the forward's quotes after the win against Bosnia
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella insists he has no problem with Lionel Messi and claims the team captain was merely expressing an opinion when he said on Monday that he preferred to play in a 4-3-3 formation.
A Messi-inspired Argentina beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 on Sunday in Rio, but Sabella came in for criticism after starting with a 5-3-2 system which left the Barcelona forward isolated in the opening 45 minutes.
Messi scored his side's second goal with a glorious run and left-footed finish which went in off the post to give Argentina a winning start to their World Cup campaign, but the 26-year-old told reporters on Monday that he prefers the attacking formation used by the Albiceleste in the second half.
"We are Argentina," Messi said in a press conference back in Belo Horizonte. "We shouldn't be concered with how our rivals play. All I care about is that we play well. I prefer 4-3-3 and I feel more comfortable with more players further forward."
Those words have been interpreted by some as a public dressing down for his coach after the decision to start with a more pragmatic approach on Sunday, but Sabella says Messi meant no harm.
"I wasn't annoyed at all by Leo's quotes," the 59-year-old coach said at his side's pre-match press conference on Friday at the Estadio Mineirao ahead of the game against Iran on Saturday. "He was asked how he likes playing and he replied. He was very respectful."
And the coach continued: "Messi has always said this, it's nothing new. He has always said he prefers to play 4-3-3 with [Angel] Di Maria pushing forward.
"We live in a climate of freedom and, in any case, I was the one who designated Messi for the press conference on Monday. I have complete trust in my players and they are free to express their opinions.
"If I told them what to say, I would be insecure."