Lionel Messi out of Argentina squad as doubts persist over international future

Argentina's interim coach Lionel Scaloni has admitted he doesn't know if Lionel Messi will return to play for the national team again.

Messi, who captained Argentina at the World Cup this summer in Russia where they were eliminated by France in the round of 16, has taken an indefinite break from the Albiceleste.

The Barcelona superstar was not included in Scaloni's first squad for international friendlies against Guatemala in Los Angeles on Sept. 7 and Colombia in New Jersey four days later.

Asked about the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's absence, Scaloni said in Tuesday's news conference: "I spoke to him and after that talk, he has not been called up for these games. Honestly, we have not spoken about what will happen in the future.

"We all know what he represents for us, and we shall see what happens. I have a good relationship with him, it was a good chat that we had and we were very clear. He will not be in this call-up, and in the future, we shall see."

Other veterans have been left out, with Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Nicolas Otamendi and Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on loan at AC Milan, all dropped.

Only nine players of the 23 who went to the World Cup have made Scaloni's squad. While Messi's absence was his decision, Scaloni indicated that was not the case for others.

"No player told me he did not want to come to the Argentina national team," Scaloni said. "All the decisions we have taken are for the good of the national team and to try to see what we can bring to the future. We have very clear in our minds that we need to add people to this new adventure. I spoke to the majority of the players and they all gave me their availability. We feel that we need these players right now. I feel it's the time for renovation. I'm convinced that the time to call up these players is now."

Scaloni was chosen along with Pablo Aimar to guide the team for the upcoming friendlies with former coach Jorge Sampaoli sacked shortly after the World Cup.

The Argentina Football Association (AFA) is looking for a full-time replacement, who would be their fourth manager in four years.

Among the 20 new faces in the Argentina squad are strikers Lautaro Martinez of Inter Milan and Fiorentina's Giovanni Simeone, son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone. Inter captain Mauro Icardi, who was surprisingly left out of the World Cup squad, returns to the fold.

"Icardi, Martinez and Simeone are players of a very high level," Scaloni said. "Mauro is the one that has spent more time among the elite but everyone can add. We have full confidence in them. We will try to increase the pool of players as much as possible so that the future coach can choose.

"We believe that those selected have enormous potential besides having a good present. At this time I'm only thinking about the future of the national team. I'm extremely grateful to the AFA president [Claudio Tapia] for this possibility.

"I couldn't say no, and I'm thrilled to be here. Pablo Aimar and I want to see as many players as possible in the next games."