Diego Maradona criticises Lionel Messi's leadership

"He's a great player but not a leader. It's useless trying to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toilet 20 times before a game."

Argentina legend Diego Maradona has hit out at Lionel Messi
Image: Lionel Messi has come under fire from Diego Maradona

Argentina legend Diego Maradona has hit out at compatriot Lionel Messi, saying the Barcelona star is not a leader on the pitch and should not be considered a football god.

Maradona, who along with Brazil's Pele, is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, claims Messi is one player at his club Barcelona and a different one with Argentina.

"We shouldn't deify Messi any longer," Maradona said in an interview with Fox Sports. "He's Messi when he plays for Barcelona. Messi is Messi when he wears that shirt and he's another Messi with Argentina."

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"He's a great player but he's not a leader. It's useless trying to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toilet 20 times before a game."

The reference was believed to be in connection with Messi's extreme nerves before games that have seen him vomit ahead of some important matches.

Messi, 31, has claimed every possible honour with Barcelona and has won the FIFA World Player of the Year award five times.

Image: Argentina legend Diego Maradona says Lionel Messi is not a football god

But he has sometimes struggled to reproduce the same scintillating form when wearing the blue and white shirt of Argentina.

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Messi has been on the losing side in all four of his finals with Argentina, three in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup and has not scored in four World Cup knockout stages.

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After another disappointing tournament in Russia this year, where Argentina failed to get past the last 16, Messi opted to take a sabbatical from international football.

Maradona, who recently took over as coach of Mexican second-tier side Dorados, says Messi's break was a sensible one.

"I wouldn't call him up right now, but never say never. We have to take the pressure off him," he said.

Argentina beat Iraq 4-0 on Thursday with a new-look side, taking their unbeaten run since Russia to three games but they face a sterner test on Tuesday when they face Brazil in Saudi Arabia.

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