Argentine Football Association (AFA) president Claudio Tapia insists his trip to Spain is to discuss Lionel Messi’s FIFA hearing regarding his four-match international ban, not to meet with Jorge Sampaoli or Diego Simeone over the national side’s coaching vacancy.
Messi was handed the suspension by FIFA after abusing a match official during the 1-0 victory over Chile last month, ruling him out of the 2-0 loss at Bolivia and their next three 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
The Barcelona star has a chance to try to persuade world football’s governing body to decrease the sanction next month, something Tapia wanted to discuss with him in person.
“FIFA has summoned Messi to make his case on the four-match suspension he got after the match with Chile on Thursday, May 4,” Tapia told Telam.
“It is very important he attends accompanied by the lawyers of the AFA to achieve a reduction of the penalty.
“So, [on Thursday] I will be travelling to Barcelona to convince him.”
Reports in the Spanish and Argentine media suggested Tapia is eager to sound out Sevilla coach Sampaoli about replacing Edgardo Bauza at the helm of the national team during his trip.
Sevilla consequently warned Argentina against trying to lure the former Chile boss away from Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, while Atletico Madrid coach Simeone has also been linked to the vacancy.
When asked whether meetings with either candidate would form part of his itinerary, Tapia said: “The idea of my trip is only to see Messi, because we are calm about the subject of the new national team coach because there is time.
“I only want to talk to Messi about the suspension, which is the top priority of the AFA.”
Argentina’s next game is an international friendly against Brazil in Australia in June, with World Cup qualifying resuming in August.