Higuain, Aguero or Icardi? Messi's strike partner options for World Cup 2018

Aguero Higuain 13022018
While the Albiceleste captain is an automatic choice for his nation, there is fierce competition to accompany him in Russia

  1. Sergio Aguero
    Getty Images

    #1 Sergio Aguero

    Without a doubt, Messi's preferred partner in the final third. Aguero has been rejuvenated since the arrival of Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and remains one of the world's finest goalscorers. The striker, however, has come under fire from many in his home country for allegedly going missing in big games, and he will be unavailable this week's friendly double-header through injury, although that should not hurt his hopes of going to Russia. He is almost certain of making the cut, fitness allowing.
  2. Gonzalo Higuain

    #2 Gonzalo Higuain

    Juventus' powerhouse forward has been sparsely used by Jorge Sampaoli since replacing Edgardo Bauza midway through 2017. Higuain has featured just once under the coach, a tense friendly win over Brazil, and was left out of Argentina's final qualifying clashes to make the World Cup. Back in form for Juve, however, the striker now has the chance to cement his place in Russia as he prepares to start the upcoming clashes as the Albiceleste's first choice up front due to Aguero's injury.
  3. Mauro Icardi

    #3 Mauro Icardi

    Four goals in Inter's 5-0 demolition of Sampdoria at the weekend was the perfect response from Icardi after the star was left out of Sampaoli's squad to face Spain and Italy. A consistent scorer for years in Serie A, Icardi has struggled to bring that form over into the international arena, and he is yet to find the net in the four outings he has made so far for Argentina. The coach stated on Thursday he was frustrated to see his Argentina form fall short of his best at Inter, although it would be risky to write off his World Cup chances completely this early.
  4. Paulo Dybala
    Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

    #4 Paulo Dybala

    Along with Icardi, Juventus' playmaker will watch this round of international matches from the comfort of his own home after Sampaoli declined to include him amongst the squad. It is true, additionally, that for all his incredible talent Dybala is yet to impress with the Albiceleste: the conundrum of how to play him alongside Messi in particular proving a sticking point. Those downsides appear to have hurt Dybala's World Cup chances, with Sampaoli suggesting this week the player was running out of opportunities to make his case for selection. As with Icardi, though, he will stay in the running until the very last minute.
  5. Angel Correa

    #5 Angel Correa

    When injury forced Aguero out of March's clashes, Sampaoli turned to an unexpected face in order to fill the gap in his squad. Atletico Madrid's Correa got the nod ahead of both Icardi and Dybala to join the squad, a chance he has richly earned thanks to his excellent performances at the Wanda Metropolitana. The 23 year old offers depth both through the middle and out wide in the Argentina attack and will be eager to add to his collection of seven caps against Italy and Spain.
  6. Lautaro Martinez

    #6 Lautaro Martinez

    At just 20, the Racing Club wonderkid's name is on everybody's lips. Sampaoli has already visited the Cilindro on no less than three occasions to watch Martinez, who obliged the Argentina coach with an incredible seven goals to earn his first call up to the senior Argentina side. The World Cup may be arriving just too soon for the striker, but his talent is undeniable and a strong showing in this double-header might just tip the balance and see him make Russia as a wildcard pick.
  7. Cristian Pavon

    #7 Cristian Pavon

    The Boca Juniors star joins Martinez in the squad as one of Sampaoli's picks from the Argentine Superliga. Pavon made a huge impression in his international debut back in November, laying on two goals for Sergio Aguero in clashes against Russia and Nigeria, and his prowess down the right marks him out as a useful option in Argentina's star-studded attack.
  8. Dario Benedetto

    #8 Dario Benedetto

    If it were not for a cruciate ligament tear suffered back in November, Benedetto would have had a real chance of making Argentina's World Cup list. The Boca striker had netted 12 goals in as many games prior to his injury, and also featured in the Albiceleste's last four qualifiers, albeit without hitting the net. Even if he does beat the odds and make it back to competitive action before June, however, his World Cup dream is effectively over.