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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Diego Maradona says Lionel Messi is not a leader for Argentina

Former Argentine superstar slams current Argentine superstar for being unable to win World Cup

Diego Maradona, left, has been critical of Lionel Messi eight years after managing him and the Argentines at the 2010 World Cup. AFP
Diego Maradona, left, has been critical of Lionel Messi eight years after managing him and the Argentines at the 2010 World Cup. AFP

Lionel Messi "is not a leader", Diego Maradona said of the Argentina superstar in an interview in Mexico.

"It's useless to try and make a leader out of someone who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game," Maradona said on Fox Sports.

"Before speaking to the coach and players he will be on the PlayStation. Then, on the field, he wants to be the leader," Maradona said as he answered questions in a stumbling voice, sometimes seeming to contradict himself.

"He is the best in the world along with Cristiano [Ronaldo]," Maradona said. "But he's not a leader."

Maradona, who led Argentina to victory in the 1986, said Messi - who was again unable to emulate that feat in Russia this summer - was expected to be "the saviour of the fatherland".

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"Let's stop making a god out of Messi. Messi is Messi for Barcelona, but playing in an Argentina shirt he is another Messi."

The former Al Wasl and Fujairah manager, who is in Mexico coaching second-division Sinaloa, said that if he was in charge of the Argentina side, he would "not call on Messi" before adding "never say never".

"You have to take the leadership away for him to be the Messi we want him to be," Maradona said.

Messi, 31, has not played for Argentina in three low-key friendlies since a 4-3 loss to eventual champions France in the first knockout round at the World Cup, but has not officially retired from the national team.