Sampaoli slams Messi treatment

Jorge Sampaoli has labelled Barcelona's handling of Lionel Messi as "abuse" following the forward's injury.

Sevilla head coach Jorge Sampaoli has waded into the debate over Lionel Messi's injury, arguing South American players are not given enough time to recover from their international duties.

The Argentina and Barcelona star was ruled out for up to three weeks following a recurrence of a groin injury during the Liga champions' 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

The events prompted Argentina boss Edgardo Bauza to criticise Barcelona's handling of Messi this week, before later insisting he did "not want a war" with the club.

But his point was supported by compatriot Sampaoli, who has extensive experience of the demands of the international scene, having served for four years as head coach of Chile between 2012 and 2016.

"I think players are being abused, players like Messi or those who travel to South America and are then playing within two days - it's unfair for the best players," he said at a media conference ahead of Sevilla's trip to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

"It's a topic we need to look at, so we can protect them."

The Sevilla boss also discussed a failed close-season bid for France international Hatem Ben Arfa and suggested a future deal for the winger could be on the cards after he was left out of Paris Saint-Germain's squad for the fourth consecutive match.

Sampaoli added: "I spoke with Ben Arfa to get him to come here. He chose PSG and I'm sad about what is happening.

"I'm sad that a player of his ability isn't playing, but it's the coach who will know why it's happening.

"Hopefully he'll call me to come here in the next window."

Sampaoli's Sevilla remain unbeaten in LaLiga this season and sit second in the table.