New Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has confirmed that Lionel Messi will be given the captain's armband for the first game of his tenure against Venezuela, and praised the Barcelona phenomenon for the class he gives to the national team.
The former Estudiantes man is currently in Kolkata as he prepares for Friday's friendly against the Vinotinto, with Messi and the rest of the Seleccion expected in India in the next few days. As widely expected, Lio will lead the team onto the pitch as he officially replaces club team-mate Javier Mascherano as the figurehead of the South American giants.
Speaking on Tuesday, Sabella affirmed his admiration for the No.10, and urged his compatriots to be grateful to have the world's best alongside them in the Albiceleste.
"We have to be thankful that we have Messi, the best player in the world and a man who loves to play for his country. It is hard for Messi to play badly, he always plays well. But the most important thing is to be grateful that we have him with us and leave him be so that he is happy," the coach stated to Ole, before hitting out against the people who criticised his new captain.
"We can't think that Messi can win games on his own, or ask why he plays in one way for Barcelona and another for us... We have to stop thinking that he doesn't sing the anthem, let's think that he is with us. He went to Spain very young," he added.
Continuing on the Messi theme, Sabella explained that he was keen to play the 24-year-old as the lynchpin of the team, the playmaker behind three forwards. He also asserted that Lio's selection as captain reflected the desires of his team and the people he has talked to.
"I had not thought about it to begin with, it came from a journalist's question which made me think. I discussed it, I analysed the idea with my collaborators and with him and Mascherano," he revealed.
"That question they asked me made me reflect that the captaincy could be changed, and from there emerged the discussions and the decision."
Messi and Argentina meet Cesar Farias' Copa America semi-finalists this Friday, at 1900 IST.