"For me, Lionel Messi is the best player of all time".
Messi arrived at the last World Cup finals in Brazil suffering from fatigue after a season of high-octane action with Barcelona and Sampaoli staged a meeting with his skipper last January to try and avoid a repeat.
"Leo shouldn't shoulder all the responsibility", Sampaoli said Wednesday.
"He's always there to give you an extra element, but he can't be held responsible for the defeat". Or at least the last in which he is widely viewed as the game's top player.
"He will be criticised because he missed a penalty, but we know how much it means for him to play for Argentina and I have no concerns for him after this game". "But when Argentina loses, it's all Leo's fault. You made a mistake, I made a mistake, we all made a mistake". "And I hope he will continue playing for as long as he wants and for as long as his health allows him to".
Considered by many as the greatest player in history, Messi has achieved everything possible at Barcelona but only has an Olympic medal for his efforts with his country.
"I respect Maradona because he is an all-time great", Ramos said.
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"I wished him a lot of luck".
Sampaoli admitted Argentina's "window of opportunity" was narrowing after the draw but said he was confident his team could put things right.
Messi may have been frozen out by Iceland yesterday, but he will be offered a second chance to get his World Cup up and running when Argentina play Croatia on Thursday. He led the Argentina national team in a boycott of the press two years ago.
It's hard to believe, but Argentina has not won a major title since taking the Copa America - the South American championship - in 1993.
Some expect Messi to exit global football after Russian Federation, after his aborted "retirement" in the aftermath of a devastating penalty shootout defeat to Chile, in the 2016 Copa America where he again missed from the spot.
Argentina will be a strong favorite against Nigeria in its final group match, but first comes Croatia. We are convinced that we came here for something.