Barcelona forward Lionel Messi will be the conductor of the Jorge Sampaoli's Argentina. It's something which was evidence during the Albiceleste's friendly against Brazil in Melbourne, although the former Sevilla coach still has a lot of work ahead of him to find the right formula and pieces which will allow Messi to shine for his country as the world expects.
Messi was captain for 90 minutes against Brazil, although he didn't stand out. The Barcelona forward didn't have his usual starring role and his performance was conditioned by the way the new Argentina boss set up his side. He produced an acceptable performance in the first half, but dropped his level, as did the whole team, in the second half of the a 1-0 win.
The Barça man struggled to get on the ball. Argentina were unable to find him early on, which forced him to abandon his position on the right and move into the middle. At times he even dropped quite deep as he looked to receive the ball and control the game.
Messi was unable to connect with Dybala, Higuain and Di Maria because Brazil sat deep and kept a lot of men behind the ball. He linked with Dybala occasionally, but Brazil were often able to snuff out the danger.
As the minutes progressed, Messi was getting deeper and deeper and ended the first half a long way from the penalty box, trying to take on the role of chief creator. He had a slight role in the goal, giving the ball to Angel Di Maria who set up Mercado to open the scoring.
Sampaoli's changes in the second half and Brazil's improvement after the break saw Messi's role decrease and he ended up almost disappearing from the game by the end. He was playing closer to the area and had more freedom to move, but Argentina rarely got the ball to him. As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, he was far too isolated.