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Lionel Messi unlikely to play for Argentina at Olympics - Martino

The ESPN FC team debate if Lionel Messi is a lock to win the Ballon d'Or for his fifth time.
ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno and Alexis Nunes assess Lionel Messi's candidacy for the 2015 Ballon d'Or title.

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino says he does not expect Barcelona forward Lionel Messi to play in this summer's Olympic Games tournament in Rio de Janeiro.

Messi won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing but has not won any silverware with his country since, despite the Albiceleste reaching the final at both the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Copa America.

Argentina have two chances for international success this year as they take part in the 2016 Centennial Copa America in the United States in June, following by the Olympic football tournament in Brazil in August.

Messi, 28, would be eligible to play in the Olympic tournament as one of the permitted three "overage" players but, although Barca teammate Neymar is expected to take part for Brazil, Martino said the four-time Ballon d'Or winner's schedule meant he would likely sit it out.

Martino, who managed Barca in the 2013-14 season, told Clarin: "The context is different in Argentina and Brazil. Plus, they are the hosts.

"To expose Leo to playing a new competition, after all he has done, seems to me to be too much. We would again be damaging ourselves, considering what is ahead in the second half of the year."

Gerardo Martino said Lionel Messi will require rest after the Copa America.

Martino said he had not asked Messi for his thoughts on the matter but, in light of the knee injury he suffered in autumn 2015, it would be "common sense" to just focus on the Centennial Copa America.

"I have not spoken with him, truly," he said. "Things have been happening pretty quickly, our priorities were others, and then he had the problem with his knee, so we were not able to talk. But it seems to me that common sense says that he, like other players, only takes part in the Copa America Centenario."

Martino did however say that there was a chance that some of his senior stars might be asked to play both competitions this summer, which could bring complications as the Olympics will clash with the start of the 2016-17 European club season.

"Many of the most important players arrive at the end of international tournaments having played a lot of games," he said. "So it seems to me logical to take off the weight of playing the Copa America, and then having to play in the Olympics.

"It is about having them rested. It is more important to me that they are in good form for the [World Cup 2018] qualifiers, that they can do their preseasons with their clubs, that they have a rest after the Copa America.

"Maybe some under-23 player will have a fixed place in the senior team, and there is a possibility that some older player will also be needed [for the Olympics]. We must bring three older players."

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