Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has revealed that star forward Lionel Messi forced himself to play in the Copa America final after picking up an injury earlier in the tournament.
Messi ended his long wait for an international trophy as his Argentina side beat Brazil 1-0 in Sunday's Copa America 2021 final, and he shared the Player of the Tournament award with opposition winger and close friend Neymar.
Messi sank to the floor after the full-time whistle, clearly overwhelmed by the emotion, and Scaloni confessed after the game that the 34-year-old had been so determined to win this summer that he had even forced himself to play through an injury.
"If you knew the way that he played in the Copa America you’d love him even more,” Scaloni told reporters (via Reuters) after the game.
“You can never do without a player like him, even when he is not fully fit like in this game and the previous one.”
Scaloni suggested it was a hamstring issue, but was instead more interested in heaping praise on the winger.
“In the end he did not throw in the towel and he succeeded,” Scaloni added. "We are talking about the best footballer of all time and everyone knew how important it was for him to win a title with the national team.
“I have a relationship that is different than the (usual) coach-player relationship. It’s closer. We greet each other, we hug each other, and I am eternally grateful to him and his teammates.”
For Messi, his priorities now turn to sorting out his club future. The 34-year-old is currently a free agent after his Barcelona contract expired, but he has agreed terms on a renewal and is now waiting for his club to free up the required funds to get the deal done.
That could come fairly soon, with reports suggesting La Liga are now finally happy to authorise the extension.