Lionel Messi, recognized for his leadership qualities, exhibited them once again with the Argentina National Team by making a noteworthy decision during their recent trip to Bolivia.
In a significant victory, Argentina triumphed 3-0 in Bolivia, a place renowned for its formidable playing conditions owing to the high altitude. Surprisingly, Lionel Messi was absent from the squad. Argentine manager Lionel Scaloni made the call to rest the team’s captain following signs of fatigue that emerged toward the conclusion of their previous match against Ecuador.
However, Messi’s absence did not deter him from traveling with the squad to Bolivia. He actively participated in practice sessions, offering off-field support to his teammates in the lead-up to the World Cup qualifier.
Members of the squad lauded Messi for his decision to stand by them. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez expressed, “Messi could have gone home, but he wanted to accompany us. This is something to be proud of.”
— All About Argentina 🛎🇦🇷 (@AlbicelesteTalk) September 12, 2023
Midfielder Rodrigo de Paul echoed the sentiments, describing Messi as an “absolute leader” and an exemplar of devotion and care for the team. He pointed out that Messi could have chosen to be elsewhere, celebrating his son’s birthday, but instead, he chose to be with his teammates.
Reports have suggested that Messi’s absence from the match was a precautionary measure, given his consistent playing schedule without a proper pre-season due to his move to MLS with Inter Miami.
It’s worth noting that Messi has encountered challenges playing in Bolivia in the past. He was famously part of the squad that suffered a 6-1 defeat to Bolivia in 2009, and he was captured vomiting during another match against Bolivia due to altitude-related issues in 2013. Hence, the decision to rest their captain, especially considering he turned 36 in June, is viewed as a prudent one.
Angel Correa takes over the No. 10 jersey from Lionel Messi vs. Bolivia
During a recent match, Angel Correa found himself in a unique position as he temporarily took on the revered number 10 jersey, usually worn by Lionel Messi, who was resting.
With Messi absent, the question arose of who would don the number 10 jersey traditionally associated with him, and it was Angel Correa, the Atlético Madrid forward, who stepped up to the plate.
Typically, Correa wears a different number, number 15, when representing the national team. Notably, other prominent forwards such as Ángel Di María, Julian Alvarez, and Lautaro Martinez retained their usual jersey numbers.
Leo Messi was enjoying Argentina’s 3-0 win vs. Bolivia from the bench 😄 pic.twitter.com/VYmQtCW78R
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 12, 2023
Correa, however, was entrusted with the iconic number 10 jersey, a decision that may not come as a surprise to some. He also wears the number 10 for his Spanish club in Madrid.
For the match against Bolivia, Correa began on the bench, making his appearance in the closing minutes when he substituted midfielder Enzo Fernández in the 87th minute.
In Messi’s absence, Ángel Di María delivered a standout performance, contributing with two assists and earning the accolade of the match’s best player. This stellar performance contributed to the World Champions securing six points from their first two qualifiers for the 2026 tournament.