The Barcelona forward was restricted to a second-half cameo against Bolivia, but still found time to score his 47th and 48th international goals
Argentina head coach Gerardo Martino praised captain Lionel Messi after his 25-minute double against Bolivia moved him closer to his nation’s all-time goalscoring record.
Gabriel Batistuta currently holds the accolade with 56 strikes for his country, but the Barcelona attacker is fast approaching the retired striker after his latest two strikes took his overall total to 48.
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.
“I am sure Leo will catch Batistuta as the team’s leading scorer, he is getting closer,” Martino told reporters after the match before going on to explain 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 added.
“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.”
Martino said he would wait to get fitness updates on the likes of Lucas Biglia, Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Garay, Gonzalo Higuain, Javier Pastore and Pablo Zabaleta before naming his starting XI for the Mexico clash.