Lionel Messi may have declared Qatar 2022 will be his last World Cup, but Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni is hopeful that will not be the case.
Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi will take part in the global showpiece for a fifth time when the tournament gets under way later this month.
Messi, who will turn 39 during the 2026 edition, stated in an interview last month this would be "my last World Cup, surely, yes".
However, Scaloni is optimistic the former Barcelona star will still have a part to play for Argentina should they qualify for the next finals in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
"It may be his last World Cup, but hopefully not," Scaloni told CNN. "He is happy on the field and makes a lot of people happy.
"If we take care of him and carry him as we have to, there is the possibility of more games, because the world of football asks for it."
Messi has a combined 26 goals and assists for PSG this season – a tally only Erling Haaland and team-mate Neymar can match among players from Europe's top five leagues.
The 35-year-old is nursing an Achilles injury that kept him out of PSG's 2-1 win at Lorient last weekend, but Scaloni has no concerns over his fitness.
"No player is going to reach 100 per cent ahead of the World Cup," he said. "We will do our best in the final week before the tournament to help every player.
"There are some who will not play the last games [for their clubs] as a precaution, but we know they are fine."
Messi has scored six goals at the World Cup, but he has yet to find the net in 756 minutes of action in the knockout stages of the competition.
The closest Messi has come to lifting the famous trophy was in 2014 when playing a big part in Argentina's run to the final in Brazil, where they were beaten by Germany.
He scored (four) or assisted (one) five of his side's eight goals in that edition en route to winning the Golden Ball award.
Argentina did not fare as well at Russia 2018, where they lost to France in the last 16, but they head to Qatar as one of the favourites on the back of winning the Copa America.
"The most important thing is the players enjoy playing in this jersey," Scaloni added. "You cannot think about the title because it generated an anxiety that doesn't let you perform.
"The prelude to the first match of a World Cup generates a different attitude in you, and we have to work a lot on the emotional side of things."Argentina begin their World Cup campaign against Saudi Arabia on November 22, before facing Mexico and Poland in their other Group C matches.