Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi was seen back in action this week after a month out due to a bout with Covid-19. He was described as "energetic" during the match against Reims last Sunday, but Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni has revealed that the superstar was badly affected by the virus.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has been raging for two yeas, and the unprecedented spread of the Omicron variant has not spared the world's best footballers. While young, healthy athletes who are vaccinated are typically expected to experience only mild symptoms or remain asymptomatic, such is not the case for everyone.

Scaloni, who himself just tested positive for Covid-19 spoke to the press ahead of this month's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers. The manager had to remain in isolation and fulfill press duties remotely via Zoom. During the chat, he spoke about his decision to allow the captain to skip international duty and remain in France.

Messi had tested positive on December 22 and was not cleared to return to France until early January. It took him another couple of weeks before finally being able to return to club action for PSG. Because Argentina have already secured their spot for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year, Scaloni decided to let Messi continue to build up his fitness in France.

"It's clear that we'd love for Messi to be here. I chatted with him and he told me that Covid-19 affected him a lot," said Scaloni. "It's important that he gets well, and that's why I decided that the best thing was for him to stay with his club."

Despite Messi's absence, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala is expected to fill the gap. Argentina will be facing Chile and Colombia during this international break, and though they are already qualified, they want to top the CONMEBOL ranking, which is currently being led by Brazil.

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was lively on his PSG return AFP / Franck FIFE