Lionel Messi served as an assistant coach for Argentina this week so that he would be allowed to remain on the bench with teammates despite carrying an injury.
Before taking his place in the dugout, the legendary forward needed to sign paperwork with FIFA to receive permission. That’s according to TNT Sports Argentina, which reports Messi couldn’t make the World Cup qualifying squad because of a problem he sustained in the previous match against Ecuador.
Messi, officially allowed to sit on the bench, then watched as Argentina demolished Bolivia 3-0 through goals from Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Tagliafico and Nicolas Gonzalez.
The Albiceleste are level with Brazil at the top of CONMEBOL qualifying through two matches and one goal behind on goal differential. They’ve downplayed the severity of Messi’s injury, which he attributed to fatigue.
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“I was a little tired, so it happened that I went out and surely it won’t be the last time I go out during matches,” Messi said after coming off against Ecuador.
His Inter Miami club manager, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, offered hope the forward could fully return to action in MLS against Atlanta United on Saturday. They’re currently six points back of the final playoff position and need a positive result at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to remain in touching distance of ninth-placed D.C. United.
“It does not seem like anything important, some symptoms of fatigue, at least that’s the information we have, we will know more today,” Martino said of Messi. “We know that on all squads this happens. There are players that play a lot more, others that play less that have to take advantage of these types of occasions but it’s also not true that the game depends exclusively on these players who are going to play more now.”
Messi has been an instant hit in America, leading Inter Miami to a Leagues Cup trophy and helping them into the U.S. Open Cup final, where they will face the Houston Dynamo on September 27. Meanwhile, he’s scored once and assisted twice in three league matches.