Argentina legend Diego Maradona believes Lionel Messi no longer owes the national team anything, and should not come back from his self-imposed exile from international football.
After a disappointing World Cup in which Argentina, finalists in 2014, barely made it out of their group and crashed out in the Round of 16 to eventual winners France, Messi announced he would not be available for the September friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia, which he duly skipped.
Sources later suggested he could stay out of international action for the remainder of the calendar year, and it’s unclear whether he’ll return for the 2019 Copa America, if at all.
Messi has yet to win an international tournament in his career, though at times he has fought a lone battle as the shining light of otherwise underperforming teams, and the pressure of winning, especially a World Cup – a trophy Argentina have not won since Maradona led the side to glory in 1986 – has weighed on the Barcelona star.
Maradona, now coaching Mexican side Dorados, says the player has nothing left to prove, however, and should officially retire rather than step back into the spotlight.
“What would I tell Messi? To not come back any more. To retire,” the current Dorados coach told Clarin on Sunday.
“The Under-15s lose and it is Messi’s fault, the fixture list in Argentina puts Racing against Boca and Messi is to blame. He is always to blame. Stop breaking my balls.
“I would tell him: ‘don’t go anymore, man’. Let’s see if they can handle that. Let’s see if they’re really big men.
“I would have liked to see him tell us all to f**k off. Because he is not to blame for us not being world champions. Fine, we all placed our hopes in him, but when you go to the racetrack you hope your horse wins and he comes in eighth.
“In Formula One Vettel has a great engine and Hamilton beats him. Right now the national team doesn’t do anything for me or for the people. We have lost that. The passion. It cannot play against Nicaragua or Malta, no, brother. We are throwing all the prestige we earned down the toilet.”
Maradona also criticized Lionel Scaloni, the current Argentina manager after Jorge Sampaoli was sacked following the World Cup disappointment, for leaving the No 10 jersey vacant while Messi makes up his mind.
“[Scaloni] is an idiot. He seems like an idiot. Because if I went and gave the 10 to Messi, Messi should give it to the next 10. It’s ridiculous, it gets me angry,” he fired.
“Scaloni is a great kid but he can’t even manage traffic. How can we give the national team to Scaloni?! With everyone who has passed through that team, who got their teeth and heads broken, you’re going to put Scaloni in?
“Now Scaloni says ‘I am prepared’. I’ve never even seen you score for Argentina. No offence. As a person, let’s go and share a barbecue. But as a coach and in the national team, no.”