Buenos Aires: Argentine football great Mario Kempes said Friday that Lionel Messi should take a break from international football in the interests of himself and Argentina's national team.
"As things stand I think that giving Messi a break would not be a bad thing," the 1978 World cup winner told TyC Sports. "Or maybe he should take a decision to have a rest."
The comments come as the Albiceleste run the risk of being eliminated from the Copa America in Brazil before reaching the knockout stage.
Lionel Scaloni's men lost their first match against Colombia 2-0 before salvaging a 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Wednesday thanks to a second-half Messi penalty. The two-time World Cup winners must beat Qatar in their final group match on Sunday and rely on favorable results from other matches to progress to the quarterfinals.
"The players feel the need to give him (Messi) the ball. There is a lack of personality," Kempes said. "What would happen if you take Messi out of this team? Why don't we (rest him) and try to form a team without Messi? That might allow some other players, who are very good for their clubs, bloom for the national team."
Messi, who turns 32, next week is Argentina's all-time leading scorer with 68 goals in 132 appearances. But the five-time Ballon d'Or winner has yet to win silverware for Argentina, whose title drought in major tournaments dates back to 1993.
The forward returned from an eight-month self-imposed exile from international football in March.