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Leo loyalty a boost for Argentina

THE beancounters in the FAI will be glad to see a certain Lionel Messi in Dublin tonight as the presence of the Barcelona man -- acknowledged by Robbie Keane yesterday as one of the best players in the world -- could fill a few more seats in the hours before kick-off.

And just like Keane shows his devotion to the Irish cause by turning up for international duty without fail, Messi has also garnered praise by coming to Dublin when he could have been excused as recent travels saw him as far away as China with his club.

"Certainly he arrived with a smile on his face, which is good considering he has come half-way around the world from Beijing via Barcelona," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista of Messi's arrival in Ireland late on Monday night/Tuesday morning.

"I had spoken to him on his journey back, and he is happy.

"I will be talking to him later before training.

"I am happy that he has arrived here with a positive attitude.

"It would have been dead easy for him to say, 'I can't be arsed, I don't really want to come play this game, it's a dead awkward time and I'm going to be injured or something'.

"However, that shows a lot about his character and that of the other players, that they haven't said that.

"They all want to come here and play for me, and play for Argentina."