BUENOS AIRES - Lionel Messi is Argentina's centre-forward, coach Sergio Batista said on Monday as he closed the Copa America door to Carlos Tevez.
"My number nine is Lionel Messi," Batista told a news conference in which Argentina announced a new warm-up fixture at home to Albania for the South American championship they will host in July.
"There are no discarded players but if you ask about Tevez... we have Messi in that position," he said while adding that the door to his team was not closed to anyone in the future with his long term sights on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Gonzalo Higuain of Real Madrid was a second option as the central striker or he could play in a slightly different attacking role, the 48-year-old coach said.
Batista added his decision concerning Tevez was purely a footballing one, saying: "There's nothing personal.
"Argentina are not going to play like Barcelona but I want to surround Messi in the best possible way," Batista said. "We will play a controlled possession game with patience."
He said he was looking for players to fit into his tactical scheme and that any doubts he still had about who to include in his 22-man squad for the July 1-24 tournament depended on finding the right man for a particular position.
Argentina go on tour next month to play Nigeria in Abuja on June 1 and Poland in Warsaw on June 5 before facing Albania at the River Plate stadium on June 20 by which time Batista said he would have decided on his squad for the Copa America.
Later in the year, Argentina meet Romania in Bucharest on August 10 and tour Asia in September with friendlies against Venezuela in Calcutta on September 2 and Nigeria in Bangladesh on September 6.