Giant on the move
Argentina could pay high price for Messi deal
Argentina could yet pay a heavy price for the deal which has allowed Lionel Messi to play at the Olympic Games.
A lengthy tug-of-war with Barcelona for Messi’s services ended with the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that Barcelona were not obliged to release him for the Olympics.
However, with Messi already in China and having made it clear his heart was in the Olympics, Barcelona relented and said he could play — provided certain conditions were met.
One was that the Argentina Football Association (AFA) would effectively pay Messi’s wages while he is in China — costly but not unaffordable.
Another was that Argentina would not pick Messi for any friendly internationals in the next year, and that is where the AFA’s coffers could be hit hard.
The arrangement of friendly matches is one of the sport’s most lucrative growth industries.
The likes of Brazil and Argentina are paid handsomely for taking their national teams overseas but the entrepreneurs who arrange the games usually demand the presence of all the top players before they cough up.
Argentina may have plenty of other exciting players such as Carlos Tevez, Juan Roman Riquelme, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Gago, but Messi is the one the fans really want to see.
Without him, Argentina’s appearance fee will likely suffer a considerable knockdown.
Still, at least his presence is working for the team on the pitch. He was the driving force again on Sunday as Argentina beat Australia 1-0 to seal their place in the quarter-finals.
PHOTO: Messi pictured during Argentina’s Group A match against Australia at the Olympic Games in Shanghai, August 10, 2008. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci