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30 stats for Messi's 30th birthday

Barcelona
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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi should help choose Argentina coach - Riquelme

Lionel Messi should be consulted in the search for a new Argentina national team coach, says former Argentina attacking midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme.

Argentina are currently looking to appoint a replacement for Gerardo Martino, who stepped down after the team's penalty shootout defeat to Chile in this summer's Copa America Centenario final in the United States.

The situation is complicated by ongoing institutional chaos in Argentine football, and allegations of misappropriation of AFA funds, with the national government and FIFA having stepped in to appoint a Comision Regularizadora (Normalising Commission) to sort out the situation.

The federation has reportedly been considering the idea of a part-time national coach with a list of names that include Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone, Tottenham's Mauricio Pochettino or Sevilla's Jorge Sampaoli to combine club and country duties up until the World Cup in 2018.

"In my humble opinion, they should ask Messi who he wants as coach of Argentina," the 38-year-old told Jorge Rial on the America TV show, "Los Intrusos."  "The coach should put the team together with Messi, make sure he is happy because he is the only one who can lead us to victory."

Following Argentina's loss in the Copa America Centenario final to Chile, Messi told reporters he would not play for the Albiceleste again. He said he was frustrated by his record -- during his time with the national team they lost the 2014 World Cup final and three Copa America finals.

"The coach should even be asking him who he [Messi] wants on the team," said Riquelme. "The issue here is that he must feel at home. The more comfortable he feels, the bigger lead he will give us and that will be better for the team. This is the national team of Argentina we are talking about here, not a club that plays on Sundays. Here they will just have three days to prepare. He must feel comfortable because we don't have a lot of time to prepare.

"This is not like a club where the coach has a lot of time and power to watch the players and evaluate and convince them," he said. 

Riquelme said he would prefer Carlos Bianchi to coach the Albiceleste, who face Ecuador next on Oct. 8 in 2018 World Cup qualifying. Bianchi's last coaching job was with Boca Juniors for the 2013-14 season.

Riquelme said it was wrong for Argentina fans to blame Messi for the recent spate of losses.

"Why do we doubt him? It doesn't make sense because we all agree that he is the best in the world, he is ours," Riquelme said. "I hope all of Argentina bands together to convince him to return to defend the shirt of his home country. I am giving my opinion as a player. I don't see anything wrong with us asking him who the next coach should be. Or with us asking him sometimes which players should be on the team. 

"Sometimes people are bothered by this, but we have to be aware that when you have the best, you must take care of him." 

Messi, who made his senior international debut in 2005, is his country's all-time top scorer, with 55 goals from 113 appearances.

The Argentina federation has said it will not appoint a new coach until elections can be held. 

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