Argentina’s New Year resolution: Be like Barça

Given that Catalunya have the same chance of competing at a World Cup as Tibet, Argentina losing 4-2 to Johan Cryuff’s side on Tuesday night needs to be considered more than just a blip.

Granted, there was no newly-crowned FIFA World Player of the Year Leo Messi at the Catalunya-Argentina friendly.

(One particularly bitter and twisted fan in Buenos Aires suggested that if Cryuff had called Messi up to play for the home side, the Barcelona forward would have overcome his ankle sprain).

But the world has now bowed down to the brilliance of Messi (apart from Brazil’s coach Dunga and Brazil’s captain Lúcio, neither of whom both deemed Little Leo worthy of a place in their top three players of the year).

After the atrocious defending and lack of ideas from the team at the Camp Nou last night, it is time to suggest a New Year’s resolution to Argentina in order to bring out the best of Leo Messi.

Copy Barcelona.

In goal for Víctor Valdés - Sergio Romero

This is one position where Argentina are perhaps in better shape than Barcelona. Valdés is the big winner in Barcelona’s keep-ball philosophy – it reduces the likelihood of him committing shockers like this or these.

The Dani Alves-charging-down-the-right-from-full-back-to-help-free-up-Messi role – Jonás Gutiérrez

Argentina are so short on full-backs that nearly 400 people voted for Fabricio Coloccini in a recent online survey to play right-back at the World Cup. 400.

Zanetti may not have the legs for this role, and Zabaleta is, by his own admission, too defensive.

Maradona is a big fan of Jonás who, unlike Gago, will do what he is told to do by his coach and not complain about being played out of position.

The Newcastle man is disciplined, has already played right-back once for Argentina, has the lungs and legs for the job.

The curly-haired-tub-thumping-put-the-boot-in-when-necessary Carles Puyol centre-back role – Gaby Milito

Milito is a carbon copy of his club team-mate, and as long as he can stay fit now that he’s back from injury, he will be the first-choice centre back next June.

The Gerard Piqué ‘other’ centre back role – Martín Demichelis

Ever since a surgeon claimed that Micho had botox injections, people have been slightly suspicious of the lack of movement from Demichelis’ upper lip.

Despite these claims, and his attempted ‘tackle’ as Bojan ghosted past him the other night, he's better than the other options at the back (Heinze, Schiavi, Burdisso, Coloccini).

"Oh no! He's picked a winger at right-back!"

The reliable left-back Eric Abidal role – Emiliano Insúa

Copying the Barcelona model means only needing one kamikaze full-back. Insúa was solid and unremarkable when called upon to face Peru, but is a stronger and more reliable choice that Emiliano Papa, and is also not Gabriel Heinze.

The Xavi Hernández metronome role – Javier Mascherano

Not as creative as Xavi, granted, but he can sit deep and keep things ticking over. Argentina need the old Mascherano. Badly.

Masche’s dip in form is, perhaps uncoincidentally, more or less traceable to the moment he was named national team captain.

In Argentina you're the odd one out if you don’t have a weekly session on the divan, so it's time to bring in the psychologist to bring out the best from the country’s captain.

The Seydou Keita/Yaya Touré sleeves-up-workaholic-midfield-dynamo role – Esteban Cambiasso

You’re just as likely to see both Touré or Keita drilling in a 25-yard piledriver as you are heroically winning the ball outside their own area. Same goes for Cambiasso.

The Iniesta pulling-the-strings role – Pablo Aimar

Everyone’s agreed that the Barcelona Messi excels when he doesn’t have to come so deep to pick up the ball. You need a player with the skill, creativity and imagination to play near him.

Pablo Aimar is the man, although Javier Pastore could well be the long-term choice for the job. In the real world, meanwhile, Diego is likely to go for Verón’s experience.

"Pablo! Good to see you again!"

The all-conquering-all-singing-goalscoring-wunderkind Leo Messi role – Leo Messi

The Ibrahimovic versatile centre-forward role – Gonzalo Higuaín

When Capello was last at Real Madrid, he couldn’t drop Van Nistelrooy or Raúl because of form and club politics respectively. Capello had to accommodate the promising new centre-forward signed from River Plate out on the wing.

Since Capello moved on, Higuaín has played a more central role for the galácticos, so is the perfect target man for the Albiceleste, but he can also just as easily swap position with whoever plays the...

The Thierry Henry-stay-out-wide-but-come-into-the-middle-as-and-when-to-cause-havoc-role – Sergio Agüero

It hasn’t been a vintage season for Agüero, and reported arguments with his señorita, who is also the boss’ daughter, may not help his cause for a place in the first team.

But there are few players with his raw talent. As with Mascherano, Argentina need the Agüero of last season.

And with that, Argie Bargy is off to defend its inclusion of Jonás at right-back over a Christmas-sized steak. More to read...

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