Barcelona captain Lionel Messi will make yet more history on Monday at the Copa America when he leads the Argentina team out against Bolivia at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá, Brazil.
Messi will be making his 148th appearance for his country and will become Argentina’s all-time record appearance holder in the process. The forward matched former Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano’s mark of 147 outings last time out against Paraguay.
Messi spoke of his pride at equaling Mascherano’s record with a post on Instagram after the win. He wrote, “Another important win to keep growing. I’m proud to have been able to wear the sky blue and white shirt as many times as my friend Masche, who I love very much and have always respected and admired.”
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has already confirmed that Messi will start the match despite his team already being assured of a place in the quarter-finals of the competition, as reported by journalist Roy Nemer.
Messi will line up with new Barcelona teammate Sergio Aguero in attack against Bolivia as Argentina go in search of top spot in the group. First place in the group will bring a quarter-final tie against Ecuador, while a second-place finish will mean a match against Colombia.
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No Rest For ‘Tired’ Messi
News that Messi will definitely be playing against Bolivia was met with surprise given Argentina has already qualified. Scaloni had even admitted that his captain was tired after the 1-0 win over Paraguay last time out, as reported by Goal.
“The reality is that Messi has been playing every game and it is very difficult not to count on him. Even though he is tired, he continues to make the difference,” he said. “Today we made several changes and, despite that, we were able to take all three points.”
The Argentina squad has had a week to rest ahead of the match, but Scaloni has still made plenty of changes to his starting XI and has rested six players for Monday’s encounter.
Emiliano Martinez, Lucas Martinez Quarta, Giovani Lo Celso, Leandro Paredes, Joaquin Correa, and Lautaro Martinez have all been benched. All six players had received a yellow card already at the tournament and were at risk of suspension ahead of the next round.
Messi Almost Out Of Contract
Meanwhile, Barcelona supporters continue to wait for news on Messi’s future with the forward’s contract at the club set to expire at midnight on June 30 unless a renewal can be agreed before that deadline.
President Joan Laporta is “desperate” to avoid Messi being out of contract for a single minute and is hopeful a new deal can be announced before the end of the month, according to Marca.
Laporta’s birthday is on June 29 and the president feels announcing Messi’s extension on that day “would be the best gift imaginable” and also “great news” for the club and the supporters.
Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano has offered hope that Messi’s two-year contract extension will be announced imminently. He has reported that both parties are “working to fix” some final details and it will be confirmed in the coming days.