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May 27, 2014

Sabella: Teammates must help Messi

Former Argentina midfielder Santiago Solari expects Lionel Messi to be the best player at the World Cup despite a disappointing season.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella has called on his squad to help team captain and talisman Lionel Messi perform in the upcoming World Cup.

- Kelly: Sabella's second-chance clinic
- World Cup Daily

Messi is likely to be surrounded by many long-term friends and colleagues at the tournament, with Sabella selecting players -- such as Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano, Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta of Manchester City, Ezequiel Garay of Benfica, Angel Di Maria of Real Madrid, Monaco goalkeeper Sergio Romero and Lazio midfielder Lucas Biglia -- who all played and won international tournaments alongside the Blaugrana star at youth level.

With the pressure to perform and lead his country to glory in Brazil sure to be huge on Messi during the tournament, the Albiceleste coach has said in AS that the other players in his side would be there to support their No. 10.

"There is a team which must help Messi," Sabella said. "We cannot put all the responsibility on his shoulders. He is happy. He feels sheltered by his teammates.

"He has a different leadership role, in his own way. Leo is the leader with his footballing exuberance, which makes the whole world fall at his feet."

Messi has struggled at club level in recent months as Barca exited the Champions League to Atletico Madrid at the quarterfinal stage while also surrendering their La Liga title to Diego Simeone's side at Camp Nou on the final day of the season.

It has even been suggested the forward could leave the Catalan club despite recently signing a new long term contract, but Sabella said he was not overly concerned by these developments, putting them down to a "bad mood" around the Camp Nou due to a poor end to the season.

"I am not worried about that," he continued. "Success is not just about winning. There are many other things -- the people of Barcelona have been in a bad mood. These are natural things."

Speculation that in-form Juventus striker Carlos Tevez had been left out of Argentina's plans as he did not get on with Messi or others in the squad was not completely true, Sabella said.

"I want to put to the side this idea there is around that Tevez was rejected by the group," he said. "It would be hypocritical or a lack of recognition to say he is not a great player.

"But we did not need more forwards. We have [Gonzalo] Higuain, Aguero, Messi, [Ezequiel] Lavezzi and [Rodrigo] Palacio, who were all delivering for us on and off the pitch. So I say --- why change?"

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