Argentina coach Sergio Batista is prepared to use Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain as back-up for Lionel Messi in the Copa America.Batista is charged with ending Argentina’s 18-year barren spell in the South American continental competition.
They enter next month’s tournament on home soil as one of the favourites alongside Brazil and 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay, and expectations will be high that they claim their first Copa America title since 1993.
Barcelona forward Messi – the reigning world player of the year – is undeniably the strongest weapon in Argentina’s impressive arsenal.
But local media reports claim the 23-year-old has been partying in Buenos Aires instead of preparing for the tournament.
“If Messi can’t come then we will play with a number nine like Gonzalo Higuain,” Bautista said.
“That is why we have selected him and why we are training him – not just to be stuck in the number nine zone, but so that he can dictate the play.”
“He will definitely not be the same as Messi because they are different players, but we need to have a Plan B so we need to train for when Messi could be missing.”
While Batista has options to cope in the absence of Messi, he remains confident the livewire attacker will produce his best when Argentina’s campaign kicks off against Bolivia on July 2.
“The mentality he has, the enthusiasm he has and the dedication he has are going to make this a very good Copa America,” Batista said.