Lionel Messi's influence on the Argentina squad is so strong that his international team-mate Rodrigo De Paul says he would "go to war" for the Barcelona star if he asked him to. (More Football News)
Messi, 33, has been Argentina captain since 2011 and helped them to three successive finals in that time, but each one – two in the Copa America and one in the World Cup – ended in defeat.
He retired from international football after the 2016 Copa America only to make a U-turn, while he then took a prolonged break from Argentina duty in the wake of disappointment at the 2018 World Cup.
Messi returned again in May last year, however, and appears set to remain in the fold until at least the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
De Paul has become a regular in the selection since Russia 2018 under new coach Lionel Scaloni and has witnessed Messi's influence in close quarters.
While the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been criticised at times in his career for a quiet and reserved nature, traits not generally associated with captaincy, De Paul is adamant the effect he has on people is significant.
#SelecciónMayor @lioscaloni: "Vamos a esperar al final de la semana para dar la lista definitiva"— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) September 30, 2020
El técnico de la Selección dialogó en exclusiva con el Sitio Oficial de la Asociación del Fútbol Argentinohttps://t.co/y4dTd1x62R pic.twitter.com/CIBDikRw1q
Speaking to FIFA, Udinese star De Paul said: "You look up to him, obviously.
"But when you start sharing things with him, he is so transparent that, instead of telling him what you think of him, you feel more like asking him about his little kids or of reminding him of the time he took you out with his studs up in a Valencia-Barcelona game!
"When he becomes your captain, you'd go to war for him if he asked you to.
"The only untouchable one is Leo. The rest of us contribute by doing whatever is asked of us."
Both Messi and De Paul have been included in the preliminary Argentina squad to face Ecuador and Bolivia in World Cup qualifiers on October 8 and 13.
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