Argentine great Diego Maradona has taken a swipe at Lionel Messi and urged supporters to stop giving the national team captain star treatment.
Four-time World Player of the Year Messi has come under fire for his performances at the Copa America after netting just one goal in six matches as Argentina lost to host national Chile on penalties in the final.
There were high hopes for pre-Copa favorite Argentina, but Messi and Co. instead walked away empty-handed for the second time in the space of a year, having lost to Germany after extra time in the 2014 World Cup decider.
World Cup winner Maradona – regarded as one of soccer’s greatest ever players – had his say and claimed Messi is unable to replicate his Barcelona form at international level.
“We have the best player in the world and he scores four goals against Real Sociedad but comes here and doesn’t touch the ball,” Maradona told Argentine newspaper Ole. “You ask: ‘Are you Argentine or Swedish?’ Criticizing him is easy. Don’t say any more that we have to pamper him. He should be treated just like any other player in the national team.
“[But] Messi hasn’t killed or raped anyone – let’s not make a big deal over this.”
Maradona added: “Those who criticize him with the aim of helping him to improve, that’s perfect.
“But those who put up a poll asking if he should be playing in the national team or not, you guys are off topic, that is wrong.”