Diego Maradona has yet again slammed the Argentina national team set-up, saying the country’s football association is full of “traitors” and criticising midfielder Javier Mascherano as he continued his robust defence of talisman Lionel Messi.
Messi informed the Argentinian FA (AFA) that he would not be available for selection for the foreseeable future, missing the team’s friendlies in September and again not being named to the squad for the upcoming international break. However, he has not officially retired.
Maradona led La Albiceleste to their last World Cup win in 1986 and managed Messi and many more of today’s stars, including Mascherano, during a short stint that included the 2010 World Cup.
He believes Messi – his successor as the country’s great footballing hope – owes the national team no more, and should not come back for international duty again, after the criticism he has received for not winning a trophy with the national side during an otherwise decorated career.
“That’s why I am telling him not to come back and take all of the blame,” said Maradona of Messi.
“We will mourn him because there is no other player like him, but just as Messi falls, so does the AFA.
“It is very easy to say that Messi is to blame, but they are going to kill the kid.
“And this kills me because if there are comrades who really love Messi, they should have come out and defended him, not press silence.
“I was wrong about Mascherano, I thought he was a leader. Today, I have to say that Mascherano is not what I believed, but that mistake is totally mine, not his.”
The Argentina legend, who is now manager at Mexican side Dorados, also ruled out a return to the national team job.
“I won’t return,” said Maradona.
“I’m really looking forward to doing a lot of things here and in the national team there are a whole bunch of traitors, so I’m not going back.
“We wanted a new AFA and we got [Claudio] Tapia. I’m guilty in that as well. He came to ask for support and I said yes.
“He told me a lot of things and then did nothing, he did not call me anymore. That’s betrayal and I spit in the face of traitors.”
Here Press Association Sport takes a look at some of the numbers behind the extraordinary career of the Argentina star.
22 – Messi has scored 22 goals against English clubs in his career – more than against clubs from any other country outside of Spain. Arsenal have come off worst, with Messi scoring nine times against the Gunners, while he has also scored six against Manchester City.
8 – Messi scored a record-breaking eighth Champions League hat-trick of his career in the 4-0 win over PSV last month. His feat lifted him clear of his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who has scored seven.
562 – Messi’s brace against Spurs took him to 562 at all levels for Barca, according to the player’s official website.
4 – Messi has won four Champions League titles with Barcelona. But recent dominance of the competition by rivals Real Madrid has seen him fail to get his hands on the famous trophy since 2015.
128 – Number of Argentina caps won by Messi, whose international career has not mirrored the success achieved with Barcelona. Olympic gold in 2008 notwithstanding, Messi is still yet to lead his country to a major title – and on the evidence of this summer’s World Cup, he may have some time to wait.
100,000,000 – The number of euros which reportedly make up Messi’s basic annual salary, having signed a new deal with Barcelona in January. If correct, the figures make Messi the world’s highest-paid footballer, and the first whose calendar earnings breach the nine-figure barrier.
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.”