Messi fit and willing for World Cup qualifiers : Scaloni

Buenos Aires, (UNI) Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni said on Wednesday that Lionel Messi will play as many minutes as possible in the opening two rounds of South America’s 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament.

The 36-year-old has had a heavy schedule of matches for new club Inter Miami but is expected to start for the Albiceleste against Ecuador in Buenos Aires on Thursday.

“I spoke with him for a while yesterday and he made himself available,” Scaloni told a news conference on Wednesday.

“In principle, he will play as much as he can. For us, just the fact that he is on the pitch is important. There’s no reason to save him if he doesn’t have any injury concerns.”

Since joining Inter Miami on a free transfer in July, Messi has scored 11 goals in as many matches while providing five assists.

In that time, the Herons have been undefeated and secured their first trophy – the Leagues Cup – with a penalty shootout victory over Nashville last month.

“He has found a place where they love him and I always say that he is happy when he’s on a football pitch,” Scaloni said. “Regardless of the country or the city where he is, he needs to play football and feel happy.”

Argentina will also meet Bolivia in a qualifier in La Paz next Tuesday.

The matches will be the Albiceleste’s first competitive outings since securing their third World Cup trophy with a penalty shootout victory over France in Qatar last December.

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