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Has Alejandro Sabella finally solved Argentina’s Lionel Messi problem?

Lionel Messi

Argentina’s Lionel Messi looks on during a training session a day before an international soccer friendly match against Brazil, Friday, June 8, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Lionel Messi, the (sorry Cristiano) world’s best player, has not matched his ridiculous Barcelona success with Argentina. There are plenty of reasons, mostly revolving around the fact that the men of La Masia are like brothers and the muchachos de Argentina are not. International footballers don’t spend enough time together to create that type of bond.

As a result, all the “we’re going to play like Barcelona” from Argentina’s past coaches is bupkis.

Enter Alejandro Sabella. In a convincing piece, Jonathan Wilson argues the Albiceleste’s new head man has figured out how to use his wealth of attacking riches to maximize the talents of one Lionel Messi. The secret: spread them out, both on the field and on the bench.

Let’s talk matches against Brazil and Germany:

Both games were won, Brazil beaten 4-3 in thrilling fashion at the MetLife Stadium, Germany overcome by a rather more comfortable 3-1 in Frankfurt after their goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler had been sent off. In both of those games -- games in which Argentina could not be guaranteed domination of possession, which they surely will be against a defensive Paraguay -- Higuain played as the main striker with Messi just behind him, backed up by two banks of four. It’s solid, conservative and, seemingly, effective.

The ploy leaves some talent on the bench -- Argentina has a murder’s row with Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Carlos Tevez, Angel Di Maria, Javier Pastore, and Ezequiel Lavezzi -- but this is the price you pay. Sometimes less is more.

The highlights from Argentina’s recent 4-3 win over Brazil are below, if for no other reason than it’s Thursday afternoon and you deserve a break. Enjoy.