Argentine great Diego Maradona has caused ripples in the world of football by saying Lionel Messi is not a leader.
In an interview in Mexico, Maradona said the current Argentine talisman is unfit to be the skipper of the national side, hence the country’s woes.
“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.”
“Let’s stop making a god out of Messi. Messi is Messi for Barcelona, but playing in an Argentina shirt he is another Messi.”
Maradona, who is in Mexico coaching second-division Sinaloa, said that if he was Argentina coach 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 knock-out round at the World Cup.
While he has not officially retired from the national team, it is unclear when the five-time ballon d’Or will return to the side.