Are Off-The-Pitch Problems Threatening To Ruin The Copa America For Messi?
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The Copa America Centenario is approaching fast, and for Lionel Messi and Argentina, the tournament is a chance at redemption. Having lost in the final of the World Cup in 2014 and the final of the Copa America last year, criticism is starting to grow due to Messi's underachievement.
It does sound ridiculous for a player of Messi's ilk to be receiving criticism, but for a nation that grew up with Diego Maradona, there will always be people who consider him to be a failure unless he brings success to Argentina on an international level. Within that context, the Copa America Centenario represented a perfect opportunity for Messi to get a second chance.
However, circumstances outside of Messi's control could be undermining his tournament. For one, Messi is currently having to testify with his father in a court case in Spain over alleged tax fraud. The case surrounds the use of revenue from Messi's image rights that were supposedly shuttled through shell companies in Panama to avoid taxes. Most people tend to believe that Messi Sr. is more culpable in this case, and that Lionel Messi will not be punished severely, but it still means that Messi will be forced to testify.
Messi missed out on the opening day of the trial on Tuesday due to an injury he suffered in Argentina's warm-up match against Honduras. He will be required to show up on Thursday June 2 to testify, which puts him in a time crunch to be ready before Argentina's opener against Chile on June 6. There shouldn't be any concerns for Messi as far as match fitness goes, but mentally, it could prove to be an inconvenient distraction.
Of course, that's only if Argentina even play. The AFA has threatened to pull Argentina from the tournament after the Argentine government suspended their presidential elections pending an internal investigation into the distribution of television revenue.
AFA president Luis Segura has since come out and stated that there is no possibility that Argentina will not play in the Copa America.
It seems doubtful that the AFA would actually pull Argentina from the competition. After all, it would deprive them of the chance to redeem themselves after the disappointments of the previous two tournaments, not to mention the tournament stands to be pretty lucrative. However, the financial and administrative turmoil surrounding Argentina's football governing body is once again a distraction that Argentina don't need right now.
Argentina still stand to be favorites to win the Copa America Centenario, but for Lionel Messi, the amount of off-the-field distractions could throw him off his game. If you combine that with the fact that Messi is coming back from an injury against Honduras, it could be a difficult tournament for the Barcelona great. Of course, it could be said that his problems will only motivate him to overcome everything and drive Argentina to the title, which I don't think anyone in their right mind would discount.
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