‘Messi will overtake Batistuta as Argentina’s record goalscorer’

Buenos Aires, Sep 6 (IANS) Argentina football team head coach Gerardo Martino says star striker Lionel Messi will overtake Gabriel Batistuta as the country’s highest goalscorer.

Batistuta, who retired in 2002, holds the record with 56 strikes, but Barcelona attacker Messi is fast approaching the tally and his latest two strikes against Bolivia on Friday took his overall total to 48.

“I am sure Leo will catch Batistuta as the team’s leading scorer, he is getting closer,” Martino was quoted as saying by goal.com on Saturday.

Despite starting Friday’s friendly in Texas from the substitutes’ bench, Messi got in on the act as Argentina thrashed Bolivia 7-0, with Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi also netting doubles, while Angel Correa rounded off the scoring late on.

The morale-boosting win was a contrast to the mood over the summer following Argentina’s defeat to Chile in the final of the Copa America — a tournament fallout which saw Messi criticised as even Martino indulged in speculation over his skipper’s international future while defending his performances.

The coach also explained why the 28-year-old did not play from the start. “It is logical that the people who pay for tickets and the organisers of the games want to see Messi playing.

“But we had to think carefully about him because he has played a lot of games. Luckily, in a short time, he made it worth the price of admission.”

Martino was understandably thrilled with his side’s performance but was quick to look ahead to Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico, which will be their last preparation before the start of South America’s World Cup qualification campaign.

“I am happy with the intensity with which we played, both from the players who started and those who came off the bench,” he said.

“It is a good result and helps me form ideas, but nobody will be ruled in or out of my team based on a single game. We will see how the team changes. The idea is to play everyone over both games but I have not decided yet.”

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