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For the Argentine team, the future of Lionel Scaloni is a big question

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For the Argentine team, the future of Lionel Scaloni is a big question

The Argentine Under 23 team will debut in the South American Pre-Olympic Tournament in Venezuela against Paraguay on Saturday at 8 p.m. The contest will also mark the inauguration of a year of competitions for the Albiceleste representatives, in which the team will become the world‘s greatest champion, from 20 From June to July 14, it will go to the United States to retain the Copa América won from Brazil in Brazil during 2021, and then, between September, October and November, it will continue with the dispute of another six days of the South American qualifiers for the Tripartite World Cup 2026.

But this calendar, which also includes two Fifa dates between March 18 and 26 and June 3 and 11, is currently hovering over two gigantic questions: will Lionel Scaloni continue to be the technical director of the senior team after the Cup? America? And what decision will Lionel Messi make after the continental tournament? Will he remain as captain and absolute reference of the world champions? Or will he step aside regardless of the outcome?

After that moving statement after the new and historic Argentine victory against Brazil at the Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro in the qualifying rounds, Scaloni has not shed light on the issue. Rather, he has been evasive and confused and has only reiterated that he needs time to continue thinking about whether to stay or go.

Scaloni’s reasons

In the recent Copa América draw in Miami, the Santa Fe coach had no problem appearing alongside the president of the AFA, Claudio “Chiqui” Tapia. But none took the first step to open up in a hand-to-hand dialogue that would clear up the concerns and that is still pending. Like a conversation with Messi that did not occur even when both were in Santa Fe to spend the end-of-year holidays with their families.

Depending on the sources consulted, different speculations arise as to why Scaloni said what he said. Some believe that he is upset with Tapia because the president continues to treat him as an interim coach and not as a world champion and does not take into account his claims or opinions. Others resort to more personal motivations and insinuate that Scaloni would not be feeling full of energy and is hesitant to face the exhausting process that will involve rearming the team for the defense of the world title in 2026.

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There are also the most catastrophic ones that refer to a very risqué discussion that Scaloni would have had with Messi in the locker room of the Maracaná stadium when, in the midst of the incidents prior to the match, the captain removed the team from the field of play without consulting the coach. . According to these informants, Scaloni would need to have confirmation from Messi himself that the episode is behind him and that the entire squad is still aligned under the command of the coaching staff. If this did not happen, the coach would effectively leave office after the Copa América.

Some sources refer to a very risqué discussion that Scaloni would have had with Messi in the locker room of the Maracaná stadium. (Photobaires).

The leaders know that only “Chiqui” Tapia will be the one to resolve this sensitive issue. They trust that Scaloni will ultimately continue in his position. But they do not stop filtering their annoyance at the technician’s actions. The most impatient, even, think that Tapia should go out and force a definition that allows him to know in advance what the coach will have to do and eventually start looking for a replacement. In that case, two strong names stand out: those of Marcelo Gallardo and Diego Simeone. But no one wants to think about this possibility. Still.

Messi and only Messi

In the case of the Rosario star, everyone knows that it will be he and he alone who determines how long he will continue wearing the glorious number 10 jersey of the national team. And that he will depend on the answers that his physique gives him during Inter Miami’s season in the MLS of the United States. Although there are several cards in the deck of possibilities.

The only thing that is certain is that “Leo” will play in the Copa América in the United States. From there on, the nebula begins. Will he leave after the selection and no longer be there for the playoffs in the last quarter of the year? Or will he make it to the end of the World Cup qualification in 2025 and then he will say goodbye? Is there a chance that Messi will make the last effort and play in the sixth World Cup of his wonderful career, something that no player has done in the history of football?

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The only certain thing is that Lionel Messi will play in the Copa América in the United States. (Photobaires)

It would give the impression that Messi himself sees it as unlikely to be in the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico and that he will not push his physique to the best of his ability at the age of 39 that he will be at that time. But all the questions crash against the impenetrable wall of silence that his entourage has built around the Rosario supercrack.

The anxieties of the year to come for the Argentine team are summarized in the fates of Scaloni and Messi. Everything that can be said about the future is subordinated to the definitions that the coach and captain of the world champions will have to deliver. Uncertainty seems to be part of the DNA of Argentines. And football cannot escape this rule either. Not even 13 months after having embraced the maximum glory of baseball in Qatar.

The Pre-Olympic, a key to the future

In addition to the two places that it will provide for the Paris Games, the South American Under 23 Olympic Pre-Olympic that will begin next weekend in Venezuela will put into consideration several young figures who could very soon begin to be part of the replacement of the senior national team. Argentina.

The presence in the national team of Claudio Echeverri (18 years old) and Valentín Barco (19), recently transferred to English football, adds to that of other players such as Federico Redondo (21) with an imminent European destiny. Even one of Qatar’s world champions, like Thiago Almada (22), has been called up by coach Javier Mascherano.

Javier Mascherano. Coach of the Argentine Under 23 team, which will seek to go to Paris 2024. (@Argentina)

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Almada and left back Lucas Esquivel, from Atlético Paranaense in Brazil, are the only players who come from foreign teams. The rest still work in the local environment (with the exception of Barco, who has just emigrated). With a majority presence of Boca that includes goalkeeper Leandro Brey, defender Nicolás Valentini and midfielders Cristian Medina and Ezequiel “Equi” Fernández.

Since the Pre-Olympic is not an official Fifa tournament, Mascherano could not count on other youth prospects who have already arrived in Europe and who have not been loaned by their teams. But they are on the radar of the national team’s coaching staff. Such are the cases of Alejandro Garnacho (19), Facundo Buonanotte (19), Nicolás Paz (19), Matías Soulé (19) and Gino Infantino (20). The first four have even been part of Scaloni’s previous calls, but not the last two calls for the South American qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup.

While plucking the leaves of the daisy to define its continuity, Scaloni should not neglect the issue of replacement. Looking ahead to the next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Emiliano “Dibu” Martínez, Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero and Julián Alvarez, Alexis Mac Allister and Enzo Fernández are in a position to arrive by age. On the other hand, Angel Di María (35) has already confirmed that he will leave the national team after the Copa América and the continuity of Lionel Messi (36) and Nicolás Otamendi (35), two of the most experienced, is not certain.

For this reason, throughout this year, on the Fifa dates of March and June and after the continental tournament, a process of inevitable rearming of the Argentine team with respect to the future will begin.

It is possible that several of the world champions from Qatar will be left out and in parallel some of the youth promises that will appear in the next Olympic Qualifiers in Venezuela, in the Paris Games, will begin to film, if qualification is achieved. and in the summons for the six qualifying matches scheduled for the three windows of September, October and November.

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