Argentina “tried everything” to bring the best out of Lionel Messi during a disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign, claims Jorge Sampaoli.
The Albiceleste headed to Russia hopeful that a talismanic presence could provide the inspiration which allowed them to deliver collective reward for their finest individual.
Messi was, however, to struggle alongside many of his team-mates, with the 31-year-old managing just one goal at a tournament which also saw him miss a penalty and bow out at the last 16 stage.
He was deployed in a false nine role against France in the second round, but was largely contained by Les Bleus as they came out on top in a 4-3 epic.
Sampaoli, who is set to face more uncomfortable questions on the back of a frustrating exit, told reporters on his efforts to get Messi firing: “We have the best player in the world and we had to try to create collective situations to really use that player who can have many brilliant moments.
“We tried many different tactics — surround him, create space for him … we tried to use everything we had to allow him to do what he can do.
“Sometimes we managed it, sometimes we didn’t.”
While he failed to find Messi’s spark, Sampaoli does not consider his time at the helm to have been a letdown.
He added: “I don’t like the word failure, but it’s very frustrating because in every training I try to develop an identity for my team.
“I don’t think there were many differences in the development of the game between the teams. They went for counters and we went for possession.
“I think Argentina really fought, France scored three in the second half, but we fought and had opportunities and almost equalised.
“It’s not ideal and I’d have maybe preferred them to work differently, but that’s the way it is.
“Maybe the reason [for a lack of cohesion] is because we didn’t have so much time, but I’m convinced Argentinian football has very good players and very good young players and we must work with them to be one of the best again.”
Sampaoli also believes that the tests he has faced in World Cup qualification and at the event itself will help to make him a better coach in the future.
The former Chile and Sevilla boss said: “I feel very frustrated because I was very excited to be here.
“I had many expectations, I wanted Argentina to go as far as possible, we had an exciting project.
“I really want to move everyone with this idea. I always believed Argentina could win, so of course I feel a certain frustration, but it’ll make me stronger as coach, it’ll help me grow and learn.”