Messi in Argentina squad

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BUENOS AIRES - Lionel Messi was named in Argentina's squad on Thursday for next month's friendly against Japan in Saitama despite being injured.

Messi, who injured right ankle ligaments playing for Barcelona last weekend, was included in coach Sergio Batista's squad because he wants to be with the players even if he is not fit to play, an Argentine Football Association (AFA) spokesman told Reuters.

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"Messi has been called up because he wants to be with the squad," Guillermo Tofoni, who arranges the AFA's calendar of friendlies, said. "There are also contractual reasons for him to be present but he's going because he wants to always be there as a figurehead of our national team."

Injured Valencia midfielder Ever Banega, who impressed in Argentina's 4-1 friendly victory over world champions Spain earlier this month, was not included for the Oct. 8 match.

Real Madrid's Fernando Gago, who missed the Spain match in Buenos Aires through injury after making a comeback in the 1-0 win over Ireland in August, is included in the squad posted on the AFA website.

Inter Milan's Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso, who returned against Spain after being controversially left out by former coach Diego Maradona for the World Cup in South Africa where Argentina reached the last eight are also included.

Former Bayern Munich forward Jose Sosa, now with Napoli, who missed Maradona's final cut for the World Cup and Benfica winger Nicolas Gaitan, who won two caps under Maradona last year when he played for Boca Juniors, were also included.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar), Mariano Andujar (Catania), Oscar Ustari (Getafe)

Defenders: Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Walter Samuel, Javier Zanetti (both Inter Milan), Nicolas Burdisso (AS Roma), Gabriel Heinze (Olympique Marseille), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Gabriel Milito (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Fernando Gago, Angel Di Maria (both Real Madrid), Jose Sosa (Napoli), Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan), Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina), Andres D'Alessandro (Internacional), Javier Pastore (Palermo), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica)

Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Diego Milito (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli)

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