Diego Maradona says he “loves” Lionel Messi and described as “false” comments attributed to him attacking his Argentine compatriot and Barcelona legend.
“Leo is a friend of mine and I’d never speak ill of a friend,” Maradona assured Spanish sports newspaper Marca on Wednesday.
Last month Maradona caused a stir when he was quoted as telling Fox Sports in Mexico that Messi “is not a leader… It’s useless to try and make a leader out of someone who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game”.
But the controversial World Cup winner has now denied the report, telling Marca that “all that was false”.
“All I said was that Leo is a phenomenon. And that there were players who go to the toilet 20 times, but I never made any reference to Leo,” the 58-year-old said.
Maradona implored his fellow countryman to return to the national side after sitting out three friendlies since Argentina’s round of 16 elimination from this summer’s World Cup in Russia to eventual winners France.
“I think he should return, because if not, we are in a pickle.”
Maradona, who led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup, is currently in Mexico coaching second-division Sinaloa.