Edgardo Bauza’s first task as Argentina coach will be to convince Lionel Messi to reconsider his international retirement.
The 58-year-old quit his post at Sao Paulo to take on the role Gerardo Martino vacated in June.
Martino resigned after Argentina reached a low point in its history of international football. The Albiceleste suffered defeat in the Copa America final, losing on penalties to Chile for the second straight year.
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To compound their woes, Messi resigned in the aftermath of the final. “For me, the national team is over,” he claimed. “I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion.”
He’s right, too. Messi has enjoyed great success with Barcelona but his record with Argentina is enough to make you wince.
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He’s lost four finals in total, including the 2007 Copa America and 2014 World Cup finals. The images of him in tears following this year’s game against Chile, in which he missed Argentina’s first penalty in the shootout, were tough to stomach.
The pain was so evident that it’s easy to understand why he wouldn’t be willing to risk going through it all again.
Bauza is "optimistic"
But Bauza can endear himself to the Argentinian fans, and boost his standing with the FA, if he’s able to convince the Barcelona star to reverse his decision.
And the 58-year-old has admitted that he is “optimistic” he can get Messi to don the blue and white stripes once again when he travels to Catalonia to speak to the 29-year-old.
“The idea is to travel [to Barcelona] and chat with Messi, not to convince him of anything, just to talk about football," the 58-year-old told Fox Sports, per Sport, after his appointment as Martino’s successor was confirmed.
“I’m optimistic with Leo. Hopefully the talk I have with him can help him return playing for Argentina.”
Choose your words carefully, Edgardo. Argentina’s chances of success at Russia 2018 likely depend on it.
World Cup qualification
The national team are currently third in the 10-nation South American World Cup qualifying group with 11 points from six games. Uruguay and Ecuador lead the way on 13 points.
The top four teams qualify for the Russia finals and Bauza will be hopeful that his team is good enough to secure their place at the next World Cup without Messi.
But he’ll need arguably the best player Argentina has ever produced if his first major tournament is to be a victorious one.
He’ll be refining his script for Messi as we speak.