“He could’ve gone home but he accompanied us”

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Emiliano Martinez hailed Lionel Messi for making the grueling trip to Bolivia with the Argentina squad, despite not featuring due to a minor injury.

Despite scoring the winning free-kick to make it 1-0, Lionel Messi was substituted in the 89th minute against Ecuador on September 7 due to fatigue. Even though his knock was nothing serious, it was clear that the 36-year-old was unlikely to feature against Bolivia for their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier clash.

However, instead of flying back to Miami to recover, Messi chose to stick with his teammates, proving his selflessness as his nation’s captain. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner endured the rigorous journey to La Paz, Bolivia, which is geographically located over 3600 meters above sea level, making it harder to breathe for players.

Lionel Messi‘s decision to stay with the Argentina squad and support them during training impressed Emi Martinez. The Aston Villa goalkeeper said (via GOAL):

“There is hunger. It’s the same captain that could have went home, but he accompanied us. That makes us proud that he continues to feel, continues to love and accompany us in that sense. I am proud to be behind these boys.”

He also praised the Bolivian fans:

“Normally, they don’t like me much outside of Argentina,” Martinez chuckled. “But, today the Bolivian people surprised me that they chanted my name and I have a lot of respect for this country.”

Argentina were able to secure a routine 3-0 win against Bolivia on September 12, despite Messi not being on the field.

Enzo Fernandez, Nicolas Tagliafico, and Nicolas Gonzalez all scored one goal apiece to ensure La Albiceleste finished the international break second in the CONMEBOL standings with six points.

Lionel Messi gets a new job for Argentina national team: Reports

According to TNT Sports (via Daily Express), Lionel Messi was temporarily assigned a new job as Argentina’s Assistant Coach during their 3-0 win against Bolivia at the Estadio Hernando Siles.

The Inter Miami superstar was rested for the World Cup qualifier fixture due to fatigue. Messi was subsequently not named in the qualifying squad, which usually meant he would have had to watch from the stands.

However, Messi reportedly filled out a form to FIFA to say he was an assistant coach, which was approved. The Barcelona legend was thus able to watch the game from the Argentina dugout, alongside manager Lionel Scaloni.

Messi now faces a race against time to be fit for Inter Miami’s next game against Atlanta United on September 16.

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