Argentina must not 'coddle' Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona says
Diego Maradona said it is time to stop coddling Lionel Messi after the Barcelona star finished Copa America with one goal in six games.
"It's logical to fall, it is easy," Maradona told Argentine daily Ole. "We have the best player in the world, one who can go and score four goals on Real Sociedad and then he comes here and doesn't score at all. You would say, but man, are you Argentine or Swedish? We need to stop busting on the folks who say that we should baby Messi. Messi needs to be treated just like we treat all the other players who put on the national team uniform. He is the best in the world, for better or worse. But look, he didn't kill or rape anyone. Let's not turn this into a soap opera."
Chile beat Argentina 4-1 on penalties to win Copa America for the first time in their history as Argentina went home defeated for the second time in 12 months, following a 2014 World Cup finals loss to Germany in extra time.
Argentina captain Messi, 28, finished the tournament with one goal in six games but he and Jorge Valdivia of Chile finished as the competition's joint leaders in assists with three apiece. Messi did not speak to the media after the final and reportedly turned down the award as the most valuable player of the tournament.
Messi later wrote on his Facebook page: "There's nothing more painful in football than losing a final.
"But I don't want to leave it any longer to say thank you to everyone who has always supported us and continued to during the tough moments."
Argentine media published unconfirmed reports that Messi was considering leaving the national team. The reports were accompanied by a poll asking readers to give their opinions.
"Those who criticise him with the aim of helping him improve, that is fine. Now, those who put up a poll asking him if he should be playing on the national team or not, you guys are off topic, that is wrong. Now we are talking about changing the president. We don't have to go to such extremes but neither should we be content with always being runners-up," Maradona said.
"We are at risk of being complacent. And history will not allow us to deliver ourselves always in second place."
Maradona said the Albiceleste's mistake at Copa America was in not having a Plan B.
"What Argentina didn't do was attack. We have a team that attacks, but if you don't attack then you need a Plan B," he said, adding that the blame did not lie with the coaching staff but "with the mentality of the players."
A four-time World Player of the Year, Messi was inspirational for Barca, helping win the Primera Division, Champions League and Copa del Rey in the 2014-15, scoring a total of 60 goals and setting up 28 more in 60 appearances.