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SPORTS | 14-06-2023 13:47

Lionel Scaloni: Messi 'deserves' move to MLS

Argentina coach says he's "very happy" that Messi has decided to move to the MLS and that he "deserves" his move to Miami.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said Wednesday that Lionel Messi "deserves" his high-profile transfer to Inter Miami, as the world champions prepared for a friendly against Australia in Beijing.

Messi, Argentina's captain, last week announced he would join the MLS side after reaching the end of his two-year deal with French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

"I'm very happy that he has decided to go and play for a club in a city that is going to treat him very well," Scaloni said at a press conference in the Chinese capital.

"Regardless of the league or the country, the important thing is that he feels good in the city and in the club. I believe he'll have the conditions to enjoy himself there – he deserves it."

Messi said Tuesday that last winter's World Cup was probably his last. The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner will turn 39 during the next World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

"I have said several times before that I don't think so, that that [2022] was my last World Cup," he said when asked by China's Titan Sports if he might feature at the 2026 tournament.

Scaloni said Wednesday that Messi's "statement seems to me to be very prudent."

"He is a man who doesn't tell lies, and the reality is that we're going to see how he feels," he said. "The World Cup is so far away that it makes no sense to think beyond that."

Argentina and Australia will play a friendly on Thursday evening at Beijing's 68,000-capacity Workers' Stadium.

The match will reprise the last-16 clash at the World Cup, where Messi scored and terrorised Australia in a 2-1 win for Argentina in Doha.

The Albiceleste went on to win the World Cup, beating France on penalties in the final.

 

Australia coach wants 'great performance'

Australia said Wednesday they have maximum respect for Messi and Argentina but will do everything they can to stop him when they meet in Beijing.

"Regarding Lionel Messi, how could you not respect someone who's done what he's done in football?" Australia coach Graham Arnold told reporters at the 68,000-capacity Workers' Stadium. 

"Of course we respect him, but at the same time we're looking to stop him and make sure our focus is on our performance, make sure that we get out there and play right, and put in a great performance against the world champions."

Tickets for Thursday's game have sold out rapidly despite soaring prices, with Chinese fans desperate to see Messi in the flesh.

Arnold, who said Australia had "learned lessons" from their loss to Argentina in Qatar last winter, has taken a young squad to China after numerous players were ruled out with injury.

"We have a younger squad of players here, up-and-coming players who we're looking at over the next four years to [see if we] can qualify for the next World Cup," he said.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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