Displacing Dybala and playing with Messi - the view from Argentina on Buendia's call-up

Emi Buendia returns for Norwich City after missing the midweek win at Nottingham Forest due to his p

It's been an exceptional season for Emi Buendia - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Emi Buendia's inclusion in the latest Argentina squad made headlines in his birth country but it wasn't a surprise for anybody who has watched the Norwich City star in action. 

The 24-year-old has become a more recognisable face in Argentina after Marcelo Bielsa's appointment at Leeds United in 2018 led to Championship matches being shown regularly over there. 

Now, he is a familiar name to supporters in Argentina after Lionel Scaloni named him in his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Despite not being the first player to be picked for the international side whilst playing in the Championship, Buendia will be hoping that he can maintain his place going forward.

Buendia's performance data this season has been exceptionally high and now Arsenal are being credited with an interest in the City star. 

Journalist Roy Nemer, who covers the Argentina national team for Mundo Albiceleste, believes there is a spot waiting for Buendia's quality.

"The reaction has been a really positive one," said Nemer. "There's been a couple of people clamouring for his inclusion in the national team for a while, so he has picked up some momentum within the media for the past couple of months after a stellar season for Norwich in the Championship. 

"It's been maybe 10 years or so since a Championship player was called up. There's definitely a spot for him in the team because he is such a versatile player, he can help when they are attacking and defending. 

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"With the injuries going on with the Argentinean National Team, there is a spot for him."

Buendia has been handed his opportunity over Juventus star and Argentina regular Paulo Dybala, who has had a difficult season for the reigning Italian champions. 

Scaloni has regularly picked Dybala since he was appointed Argentina boss in 2018 and is believed to have opted to reward Buendia's performances with a call-up over the forward who has 27 caps for his country. 

Despite their contrasting reputations, Nemer believes Buendia deserved to named in the squad ahead of the Juventus star. 

Juventus' Paulo Dybala celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the UEFA Champion

Buendia has been named in the squad ahead of Juventus' Paulo Dybala - Credit: PA

"Dybala's exclusion is certainly somewhat surprising," he admitted. "Especially when you consider that he has been consistently called up under Lionel Scaloni.

"He actually spoke about this two days ago, he said the reason Dybala had not been included is the fact he hasn't been doing too well this season for Juventus because of injury and because the club as a whole haven't been doing too well. 

"If you compare both players, their performances this season are night and day. It's completely different. Buendia has been voted as the best player in the Championship this season and Dybala has been struggling for minutes. 

"The fact Buendia has been chosen over Dybala is surprising when you look at the name itself but if we're talking on merit, then Buendia deserves to be included in the Argentina squad.

"I'd be surprised if he didn't get any minutes, maybe not as a starter but from the bench for sure."

Buendia is expected to compete with Udinese captain Rodrigo de Paul and Lucas Ocampos of Sevilla for a starting spot in the side. 

City's star isn't expected to be named in the Argentina squad for the upcoming Copa America, although Covid could change rules meaning a late inclusion is possible, after 15 goals and 16 assists this season made him 'impossible to ignore' for Scaloni.

"Scaloni has a base of the squad but now Buendia has shown his quality in the Championship, he did prior in my opinion, he has also been linked with some big clubs. I think Scaloni has taken note of that," Nemer continued. 

"I think he knows that he needs that versatility in qualifiers or later on in the Copa America or even the World Cup. It's better to include him now rather than wait until it is too late in a year's time. 

"His numbers speak for themselves. He is difficult to ignore at this point. The Championship is arguably better than many of the first divisions in some countries. Being in the Championship and being named the best player, that has merit. 

"When you're playing that well, you are that versatile and have that mentality that Buendia has, it is becomes very difficult to say 'I don't need him in the team'. It's the opposite, Argentina needs a player like Buendia in the squad."

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after the final whistle during the FIFA World Cup Group D match

Emi Buendia will share a pitch with a certain Lionel Messi - Credit: PA

A major perk of representing Argentina is being afforded the chance to share the pitch alongside footballing icon Lionel Messi. 

The Barcelona star intervened during a match back in 2015 when Buendia's international future was uncertain after he had played for Spain's youth sides. Messi convinced City's winger to pledge his allegiance to Argentina, culminating in his first senior call-up.

"Watching Messi brings me joy, so I can only imagine what it must be like for someone sharing a pitch and playing alongside him," Nemer said.

"Players have mentioned in the past, both younger and older players, that he is just like everyone else and Buendia even mentioned it in his interview when he said that Messi asked him 'what's going on, are you going to play for Argentina or not?'.

"That caught him by surprise and it will be exciting to see them play together."