Maradona hits out at Lionel Messi

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE -

buenos aires — Ar­gentina great Diego Maradona has hit out at his coun­try­man Lionel Messi, say­ing the for­ward is not a leader on the pitch and should not be con­sid­ered a foot­balling de­ity.

Maradona, who along with Brazil’s Pele is widely held to be one of the best play­ers of all time, said Messi was one player at his club Barcelona and an­other with the na­tional side.

“We shouldn’t de­ify Messi any longer,” Maradona said in an in­ter­view with Fox Sports. “He’s Messi when he plays for Barcelona. Messi is Messi when he wears that shirt and he’s an­other Messi with Ar­gentina. He’s a great player but he’s not a leader. It’s use­less try­ing to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toi­let 20 times be­fore a game.”

The ref­er­ence was be­lieved to be in con­nec­tion with Messi’s ex­treme nerves be­fore games that have seen him vomit ahead of some im­por­tant matches.

Messi, 31, has claimed ev­ery pos­si­ble hon­our with Barcelona and has won the Fifa World Player of the Year award five times.

But he has strug­gled to re­pro­duce the same scin­til­lat­ing form when wear­ing the blue and white shirt of Ar­gentina.

Messi has been on the los­ing side in all four of his fi­nals with Ar­gentina — three in the Copa Amer­ica and at the 2014 World Cup — and has not scored in four World Cup knock­out stages.

Af­ter an­other dis­ap­point­ing tour­na­ment in Rus­sia this year, where Ar­gentina failed to get past the last 16, Messi opted to take a sab­bat­i­cal from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball. Maradona, who made his com­ments from the Mex­i­can state of Si­naloa, where he re­cently took over as coach of lo­cal sec­ond-tier side Do­ra­dos, said Messi’s break was a sen­si­ble one.

“I wouldn’t call him up right now, but never say never. We have to take the pres­sure off him,” he said. Ar­gentina beat Iraq 4-0 on Thurs­day with a new-look side, tak­ing their un­beaten run since Rus­sia to three games.

A sterner test will take place on Tues­day when they face Brazil in Saudi Ara­bia — without Messi. —

AFP

Diego Maradona (right) is pho­tographed prior to a friendly match be­tween Ti­juana Xoloitzcuin­tles and Do­ra­dos in Mex­ico. —

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