Lionel Messi has been left off Argentina’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Colombia to allow the forward to rebuild his match fitness at Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) as he recovers from COVID-19, according to media reports.
Messi has not played for PSG since a 1-1 draw at Lorient in Ligue 1 on December 22, ESPN reported.
With Argentina having already qualified for the World Cup, head coach Lionel Scaloni announced his 27-man squad on Wednesday, leaving Messi at home in Paris.
The Argentina captain tested positive for COVID-19 during the Christmas holidays and returned to Paris from his native Rosario with a negative test on January 5.
Messi, 34, said in an Instagram post last week that it took him “much longer” to recover from coronavirus than he had expected.
According to ESPN, PSG sporting director Leonardo had criticised Scaloni in November for selecting Messi for the last international window, arguing the forward was not fit to play for the team after having previously missed several games with knee and hamstring pains.
Scaloni responded, saying he understood PSG’s frustrations over Messi’s busy calendar but adding that his national team had a right to call up the player.