Riquelme backs Messi to lead Argentina to Copa glory

The captain’s importance to his national team has been evident so far in the World Cup qualifiers, and the former Albiceleste No. 10 has backed him to succeed in the US

Juan Roman Riquelme believes Argentina are set for Copa America Centenario glory, providing Lionel Messi stays fit.

Messi suffered a knee injury earlier this season that kept him sidelined for almost two months, but the five-time Ballon d’Or winner came back in prime form and helped Barcelona to their sixth Liga title in eight years.

Argentina won one of four World Cup qualifiers in their captain’s absence but have reignited their CONMEBOL campaign with wins over Chile and Bolivia since his return.

Messi scored a penalty in the latter match and former Argentina and Barcelona playmaker Riquelme believes the superstar forward can ensure his country sweep all before them when next month’s tournament gets under way in the United States.


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“I’ve got a lot of hope about this Copa America,” Riquelme told AS. “Argentina will be closer. They have good players and Messi is in form.

“If Messi doesn’t get injured, I think we’ll win it.”

But Riquelme feels Messi has too often been left ploughing a lone furrow for Argentina, who have fallen short in the World Cup and Copa America finals in each of the past two years.

“Why haven’t we won anything? Because Messi is left to play on his own,” he added.

“We need to look after him. There’s no one like Messi.”