ARGENTINA boss Gerardo Martino says Lionel Messi was left on the bench for the 2-0 friendly win over El Salvador on Saturday because he simply wasn’t fit enough to play.
A foot injury has troubled the Barcelona star this week and forced him to sit out Thursday’s training session, though it was thought he could still be fit in time for the clash in the United States.
However, the game came too soon, with the 27-year-old remaining on the bench as his team-mates coasted to victory courtesy of an own goal and a Federico Mancuello free-kick.
“The first day Messi trained well, the second he felt discomfort and the third cost him,” the former Barcelona boss said after the game.
“We all understand the desire of the people, but really he couldn’t play. We have to be careful – people will always want to see him play, but physically it just wasn’t possible.”
Martino also reserved praise for Independiente winger Mancuello, whose late goal came on his international debut for Argentina.
“We spoke to Federico about the system we were going to play and how we wanted him to play,” said the coach.
“He is a good boy, an intelligent player, and it brought joy to see him score because we know he really appreciates this opportunity. We are very happy with him.”