Lionel Messi can win 2022 World Cup but Argentina need a process - Jorge Sampaoli
Former Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli believes Lionel Messi can still realise his dream of lifting the World Cup in 2022 if the country doesn't veer from "the process."
Sampaoli has spoken for the first time since being dismissed by the Argentina Football Association (AFA) after leading the Albiceleste to the Round of 16 at the tournament in Russia where eventual champions France beat them.
Asked if Messi, who will be 35 when the 2022 World Cup takes place in Qatar, can win the title, Sampaoli told Marca: "Of course he can. But this needs a process, considering what has happened up to now.
"Processes don't break, they are corrected. For the next World Cup or Copa America, there needs to be an organisation, unlimited confidence and know what the process requires. In other words, if the Copa America is not won, we need to maintain that process and not break it. Enough of that madness where if you don't win, you are a loser. It's not like that, if you believe, then it's possible even if it may happen later on. But you have to believe."
Sampaoli said it was a privilege to coach the five-time Ballon d'Or winner even if it was only for 13 months.
"It was incredible," Sampaoli said of Messi. "Especially seeing him so committed, suffering a lot when we didn't win. The best player in the history was very committed. Leo suffered like no one else, it was a big weight for him not to have been able to transcend as a team."
The former Sevilla coach says coaching the Barcelona superstar is highly demanding.
"To have the best in the world in your team forces maximum exigency," he said. "The rest of us have to be at his level. But at times you can and other times you cannot. We had that battle every day. To have Leo forces you not to have a margin of error when it comes to winning."
Messi has scored 65 goals in 128 appearances since making his debut with Argentina in August 2005.
Despite competing in four World Cups and four Copa Americas, Messi has not won a major trophy with Argentina.
He has taken an indefinite break from the national team since captaining his national team in the tournament in Russia but AFA president Claudio Tapia and Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde are confident the 31-year-old will return to play for Argentina.
Asked about Messi's decision, Sampaoli said: "These are very personal decisions. Only he knows what he needs and we must respect it."
Looking back at the World Cup, where Argentina won just one of its four games, Sampaoli said: "I thought we prepared very well for the World Cup but then in the tournament, it didn't go as well. It was like suffering to play each match. The weight that this group was carrying around [on their backs] was just too heavy.
"I think everyone that was there was honest in what they gave to the team, including me. I put a lot of heart and feeling but it wasn't enough. I don't have anything to reproach myself. In the adversity, I learned a lot for the future."
Sampaoli believes that for Argentina to have a chance to win tournaments in the future, the culture of the country must be different. "Things have to change, because with those values, it hasn't gone very well lately for us as a society and in football," he said.
"It's the hysteria of immediacy, to win no matter what. And you cannot do it like that. I hope things change in the future.
"Imagine Messi, he came after having great stability in his club in Spain and he arrives to his country, Argentina, and he has to win at all costs, with a very big collective hysteria. You cannot win or enjoy yourself like that."