Sampaoli: ‘Felt very proud when Leo came and hugged me’

After helping his team win the on-field skirmish over Nigeria, Lionel Messi quieted the off-field noises that have threatened to derail Argentina’s World Cup campaign.

Messi’s affectionate hug to coach Jorge Sampoli ended days of speculations about the manager’s apparent breakdown of the relationship between the captain and the rest of the team.   -  AFP

After helping his team win the on-field skirmish over Nigeria, Lionel Messi quieted the off-field noises that have threatened to derail Argentina’s World Cup campaign.

Messi’s affectionate hug to coach Jorge Sampoli ended days of speculations about the manager’s apparent breakdown of the relationship with the captain and the rest of the team.

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An emotional Sampoli saw the moment as a vindication of his role and said: “I felt very proud when Leo came and hugged me. He knows how passionate I am about Argentina. I have shared a lot of great moments with him and he is aware that we have this common dream to do something special in Russia,” Sampoli said.

Reiterating Messi’s all-pervading role in the squad, Sampoli said: “You need to make Leo feel secured and everyone who trains him knows that. The other players must get him involved in the game. We have the best player in the world and the rest of the players are required to pass the ball more often to him so that all of them can benefit from his game.”

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