Lionel Messi has been the subject of an incredible verbal attack from compatriot and former manager Diego Maradona, with the legendary Argentinian stating his performances for his country are below-par.
Messi once again failed to lift a major international trophy after being part of the side that was beaten on penalties by Chile in the Copa America final earlier this month, and many have been quick to suggest he isn’t nearly so good for Argentina as he is for Barcelona.
Despite the fact Messi produced a string of very accomplished performances en route to the Copa America final, Maradona - as relayed by Goal - is unimpressed with how the diminutive forward plays when not with his club side.
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"We have the best player in the world and he scores four goals against Real Sociedad but comes here and doesn't touch the ball," Maradona said.
"You ask yourself: 'Are you Argentine or Swedish?" Criticising him is easy.
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"Don't say any more that we have to pamper him. He should be treated just like any other player in the national team.
"[But] Messi hasn't killed or raped anyone - let's not make a big deal over this."
The only man to criticise?
Though the comments might be harsh it’s fair to state that there are few better positioned in the game to criticise Messi’s exploits.
Maradona himself is arguably the only player in history to be able to claim that he was better than the Barcelona star is, and that’s solely down to his feats on the international stage.
The Napoli legend was a driving force behind Argentina winning the World Cup in 1986, and although Messi and his teammates reached the final in Brazil last summer, the 28-year-old’s capture of the Golden Ball award was met with widespread puzzlement.
Of course that’s not to say Messi isn’t capable of producing the goods for Argentina, and it appears he’ll get one more bite of the cherry in Russia 2018. At that point the Barcelona forward will be approaching 31, meaning that the tournament could represent the final chance he’ll have at silencing the critics who say he can never be as good as Maradona based on international form.
The Barcelona hero
Meanwhile his performances for Barcelona last season marked a sharp return to the top of the world football ladder, eclipsing those of rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the Catalans marched to a second historic club treble.
With Messi notching 58 goals across all competitions and forming a lethal triumvirate with Luis Suarez and Neymar, it seems as though he’s found another positively influential manager in Luis Enrique. The pair started their player/manager relationship on bad ground, but the Spaniard has had a great impact on Messi’s form.
Football fans, is Maradona right to criticise Messi at international level? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.