PRETORIA // Lionel Messi's hopes of being crowned the best player at the World Cup could be dashed by the exhaustion of a taxing European season, according to the man responsible for keeping the team in shape. "He has arrived at the World Cup tired, the damage is already done and it's irreversible," Fernando Signorini, Argentina's fitness coach, told sport.es. Signorini, Diego Maradona's personal fitness coach for most of his playing career in Europe, said too much was being expected of the young forward who turns 23 in two weeks. "[The organisers] worry about the doping controls but not if players play 70 matches a year," he said this week after an early morning visit by anti-doping testers to Argentina's University of Pretoria camp.
Fans and media have seen little of Messi, the little Barcelona superstar, in the last four weeks although he has been involved in Argentina's practices during the two weeks the squad have been in South Africa. Having missed Argentina's 5-0 win over Canada in their last warm-up game 17 days ago due to a minor knee injury, Messi's last match was in the Primera Liga on May 16. Signorini said Messi was doing no more than absolutely necessary in terms of fitness in the build-up to Argentina's opening Group B match against Nigeria in Johannesburg tomorrow.
He added: "Messi is almost a miracle of genetics because in a single movement he makes six or seven [movements]. It's his calling to be one of the best [players] in history and surely at the next World Cup he'll be better than in this because to his talent he will add experience." * Reuters