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‘Messi needs the team and the team needs him’ – Scaloni discusses Barca star ahead of Copa America

11:29 BST 29/05/2019
Lionel Scaloni, Lionel Messi, Argentina
The attacker suffered Champions League and Copa del Rey disappointment with Barcelona, but his national team manager isn't concerned

Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni knows Lionel Messi has “a special aura”, but he urged his squad to help create a comfortable atmosphere around the star as they prepare for the start of the Copa America in June.

Barcelona’s Messi is joining up with his Argentine team-mates ahead of a friendly against Nicaragua and then Group B tournament fixtures against Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar.

Messi endured a disappointing end to the season with Barca, who spectacularly squandered a 3-0 first-leg Champions League semi-final lead, as Liverpool came back to win 4-0 at Anfield to reach the final against Tottenham.

Although Ernesto Valverde’s Catalans won La Liga last season, they lost 2-1 to Valencia in the final of the Copa del Rey.

Scaloni has dismissed the notion that his captain might be suffering a hangover after those twin disappointments, but stressed he “needs his companions” if Argentina are to make an impact in the international tournament in Brazil.  

Argentina haven’t won the Copa America since 1993 and Scaloni wants Messi’s team-mates to help their skipper on and off the pitch.

“That Messi is magnificent, great, you know, there are no more adjectives for him. That is evident,” Scaloni told Mundo Deportivo.

"Leo needs a team and the team needs him. That must be normal. Here he needs his companions. And we all need a team, commitment, the desire to win, to do something, always talking and thinking in plural. And Messi is the first to know, [that] he needs his team-mates.

"Here I have heard everything. That when he arrived well having won in his club, then he did badly in the national team. That if he does badly in Barcelona it is better because he arrives with a desire for revenge.

“There is no sense in either of them. They are speculations. I think that Leo feels comfortable in the national team and takes all the pressure off. Here there is no pressure of anything. You should only focus on having a good Copa America.

“The goal is for Leo to feel that his team-mates will help him win and that he will help them win, too.

"I do not have 'the' formula. I think about what I would do if I were Messi's partner, as I once was. In the day-to-day, in the locker room, you have to approach Leo and start by taking him as a normal person. I am convinced that everything starts there.

“Because the issue is not just on the [pitch]. This is much deeper. It is necessary that the players come to talk with Leo in the locker room, at breakfast... they have to realize that he is one of ours. If we get that, then everything will be easier on the [pitch].”

Messi has played once under Scaloni, a 3-1 friendly defeat at home to Venezuela in March.

Scaloni added: "We lost that game and things did not go well. Afterwards, I had a very interesting talk with the players. They opened. It was very productive.

“It seems to me that there was a lot of progress. This is normal to happen. For many of these guys it's a big step to be in the national team. And, on top of sharing it with Messi, much more.

“We already know that Leo has a special aura. Being by his side, watching him play, [it's] not easy to assimilate. You have to let a few days go by.

"That's why this time before the Copa America will be key to breaking that ice that I was talking about before. I think it's going to happen naturally. "