Messi out of Argentina’s friendly against Italy

Barcelona star meets Pope Francis before friendly but will miss match with muscle fatigue

Argentina’s Lionel Messi takes part in an Argentina training session at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome

Argentina’s Lionel Messi takes part in an Argentina training session at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome

 

Lionel Messi will not lead Argentina against Italy in tomorrow’s friendly in Rome after pulling out with muscle fatigue, Argentine media reported.

Rumours of Messi’s absence before the rival teams had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican were confirmed by Guillermo Tofoni, who arranges Argentina’s friendly matches.

Messi is due to return to Barcelona on Wednesday morning to continue his treatment on his left thigh with Inter Milan forward Rodrigo Palacio his most likely replacement in coach Alejandro Sabella’s starting lineup.

Mario Balotelli has also withdrawn from the Italy squad after suffering a knee injury in training.

The AC Milan striker, who was forced to leave last month’s Confederations Cup campaign in Brazil early with a leg injury, will be unable to line up against the South American nation at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in a game organised in deference to recently elected Pope Francis.

Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo is now expected to deputise for 23-year-old Balotelli alongside Genoa’s Alberto Gilardino, while Milan forward Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli provide alternative options to Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli.