Lionel Messi cannot be expected to win the World Cup for Argentina by himself, Javier Zanetti has warned.
The Barcelona superstar almost single-handedly dragged his country to next summer’s finals in Russia, with a timely hat-trick in a final qualification clash with Ecuador sealing a much-coveted spot.
Argentina 17/2 to win World Cup
He will be expected to lead the charge for global glory in 2018, having finished as a runner-up last time out as Germany snatched an extra-time success on Brazilian soil.
Zanetti, though, says the five-time Ballon d’Or winner should not be the only one to carry the expectations of a nation, with it up to his team-mates and manager to offer vital support.
“Messi is an extraordinary player, but your squad is pivotal: at a World Cup, the 11 players on the pitch and everyone else in the group can all play an important role,” a man with 143 caps for Argentina to his name told FIFA’s official website.
“We know that he’s the guy who can produce something special out of nothing, who can make things happen and be the match-winner, but [Jorge] Sampaoli has to come up with alternatives.”
Argentina are not short on alternatives, with their squad boasting an enviable collection of attacking talent.
So blessed are they in that particular department that Gonzalo Higuain – a proven goal-getter at the very highest level – has been left out by Sampaoli in recent selections.
Zanetti hopes the Juventus frontman will make the 23-man party next summer, but is also looking to the likes of Paul Dybala and Mauro Icardi to transfer their domestic form onto an international stage.
He added: “There’s been a lot of change in personnel. Until recently, Pipita [Higuain] was the undisputed No. 9.
“Now Mauro Icardi has got his chance, which is richly deserved because of what he’s doing for Inter Milan. Mauro can be useful for the national team, but that doesn’t mean Higuain shouldn’t be in the squad.
“Argentina are lucky enough to have an embarrassment of riches up front, from Pipita to Icardi, Dybala, Messi and so on.
“They’ve got so many options. I hope they can all go to the World Cup because they’d give the squad great strength in depth.”
Icardi has returned to the Argentina fold in 2017 following a three-year absence and is still looking for his first goal for the Albiceleste
He will be hoping to break that duck in the near future, with Sampaoli also able to call upon the creative talents of Sergio Aguero, Dario Benedetto, Cristian Pavon and Angel Di Maria.