Otamendi returns but Argentina leave out Messi again

Lionel Messi has been excused from national team duties for the rest of the year. (AFP pic)

BUENOS AIRES: Manchester City centre-back Nicolás Otamendi was recalled to the Argentina squad on Friday but as expected, Lionel Messi was left out of the group due to play arch-rivals Brazil in Saudi Arabia.

After Argentina’s disappointing last-16 elimination by eventual winners France from the World Cup in Russia, Messi was granted time off from national team duties for the rest of the year.

He missed friendlies in the United States against Guatemala (3-0) and Colombia (0-0) earlier this month and will watch from afar as interim-coach Lionel Scaloni’s team tackle Iraq on October 11, also in Saudi Arabia, and Brazil five days later in another pair of friendlies.

“I’ve spoken with Messi and we agree that it’s not the right time for his return,” said Scaloni.

Alongside Messi, three other attacking stalwarts have been left out: Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero, Ángel Di María of Paris Saint-Germain, and AC Milan’s Gonzalo Higuaín.

Inter Milan duo Mauro Icardi and Lautaro Martínez are in, as well as Giovani Lo Celso of PSG and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala.