Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has asked for patience from fans regarding Lionel Messi's international goal drought and insisted that the Barcelona maestro never plays badly for the South American giants.
The trainer is preparing for his competitive debut on Friday night at home to Chile in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Messi will captain the side and partner Gonzalo Higuain up front in a two-man attack.
And Sabella stated that he was unconcerned by the lack of goals from the No. 10, pointing out that he gives so much more to the team.
"I think that Messi has shone. In a few games it happens to be the case that he has not scored, but for example against Costa Rica he put through so many dangerous passes. He also gave a couple against Uruguay," the former Estudiantes man told reporters in Thursday evening's press conference, referring to Messi's inability to find the net in the Copa America.
"In our tour [of India and Bangladesh] the Venezuelan goalkeeper saved two from him. Everything must be analysed in context.
"Generally Messi never plays poorly. He plays at a level of seven out of 10 or above. Since we are used to seeing him play at 10, when he plays a seven game it seems he is playing badly."
Sabella moved on to point out the danger posed by Argentina's South American rivals, saying: "There has been a notable improvement and all the teams are at a similar level."
He singled out Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru as rivals to watch, while also admitting that Chile would not be an easy prospect at the Estadio Monumental.