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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Lionel Messi calls for Gonzalo Higuain inclusion in Argentina WC squad

In an interview with ESPN FC, Lionel Messi hits back at claims he makes the decisions for Argentina.

Lionel Messi says that striker Gonzalo Higuain should be picked for Argentina's World Cup squad.

Higuain lost his place to Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi and Boca Juniors' Dario Benedetto for Argentina's final matches in the South American World Cup qualifiers under coach Jorge Sampaoli.

But in an interview with local channel TyC Sports, broadcast on Wednesday, Messi described Higuain as "a fundamental player, he needs to be there."

Argentina's five-time world player of the year added that Higuain "is one of the best No. 9s in the world, he shows it every weekend at Juventus."

Higuain was a starter for Argentina in the World Cup final against Germany in Brazil 2014 and in the finals of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016.

Having qualified for next year's World Cup in Russia, Sampaoli recently said he was going to consider calling up Higuain again.

Messi added that his national team must improve if they are to lift the World Cup next summer. The Albiceleste struggled in qualifying and are trying to find their best play under coach Jorge Sampaoli.

Messi, who scored a hat trick in Argentina's last qualifier to earn his team a ticket to Russia, said: "I think we have enough time to improve. We've had some good games with Sampaoli. It's true that we have to improve if we want to aspire to be world champions. As we are today, we will not get there, not in the least. Right now there are better teams than us like Brazil, Germany, France and Spain."

Looking back at the last three finals -- two in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup -- he has lost with Argentina, Messi added: "We deserved to win at least two of those three finals.

"I have not looked at them since. What I have is memories that remain. We deserved to win them because despite not playing well, we had the best chances in the World Cup and in the Copa America."

Messi also spoke about his last match with club team Barcelona, a 2-0 Champions League win against Sporting Lisbon that he came off the substitute's bench for in the 61st minute.

"The season is long and I have to accept playing less," Messi said. "I have learned that because there are so many games during the season and my body is starting to take its toll if you play all the games. I know this is for the best.

"It's tough to be on the bench during the games. From there you see everything much easier and you see things that you don't see inside. But in the field, not everything is so easy."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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