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'Ronaldo would have played' - Injured Messi criticised by Gatti over Argentina absence

07:49 BST 29/03/2018
Lionel Messi, Argentina training
The Barcelona superstar sat out a meeting with Italy and a 6-1 defeat to Spain during the international break with a hamstring complaint

Lionel Messi may be nursing a niggling hamstring problem, but Argentina legend Hugo Gatti claims Cristiano Ronaldo would have played through the pain.

Barcelona’s superstar forward sat out both of his nation’s fixtures during the international break, playing no part in a 2-0 victory over Italy or a 6-1 defeat to Spain.

Jorge Sampaoli admitted that his side had been “slapped” during a forgettable night in Madrid , with Messi forced to watch on from the stands at Wanda Metropolitano before leaving the contest early.

Former Argentina goalkeeper Gatti believes the five-time Ballon d’Or winner should have made himself available, regardless of his muscular concerns , as eternal rival Ronaldo would never have cried off duty with a slight knock.

The man nicknamed 'El Loco' during his playing days told El Chiringuito TV while reflecting on a demoralising demolition at the hands of Spain: “Messi had to have played.

“People wanted to see you.

“Cristiano would have done it.”

Boca Juniors icon Gatti, who earned 18 caps for Argentina and made their squad for the 1966 World Cup, also believes that too much emphasis is being placed on Messi’s role for Albiceleste.

While conceding that he should have played during two important warm-up fixtures over the course of the last week, he has urged Sampaoli not to revolve everything around a star turn.

Gatti added: “I do not think Messi is the one who makes the team, I do not believe in those things.”

Argentina will, however, be leaning heavily on their talismanic skipper when they head to Russia this summer.

Any hope they have of tasting global glory is likely to rest on Messi’s ability to lead from the front and provide inspiration for a nation starved of international honours in the modern era .