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Lionel Messi defended by Jorge Valdano over criticism in Argentina

Lionel Messi has won support from former Real Madrid player and coach Jorge Valdano, who says he is "embarrassed" to hear criticism from some Argentine commentators.

Messi, 28, was singled out by sections of the media following Argentina's penalty shootout defeat to Chile in the final of last month's Copa America, with former Albiceleste superstar Diego Maradona questioning why the Blaugrana talisman did not repeat his club form for his country.

He has won every available club title with Barcelona -- including another Treble of Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey last season -- and picked up four Ballon d'Or awards.

However, a decade-long international career has yet to bring any trophies, with this summer's ultimate disappointment in Chile following on from the extra time defeat to Germany in last year's World Cup final.

Such failures with Argentina have led to questions in the Buenos Aires press going back many years, something which current Argentina coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino said this week would have made him retire from international football a long time ago.

Valdano, who played alongside Maradona in Argentina's 1986 World Cup-winning team, told TyC Sports that it was hard to hear anyone attacking Messi.

"I want to put this into context," he said. "I meet many more people who do not understand the criticism of Messi, than people who are disposed to criticise him. What happens is the voices who do attack him are so loud that it makes me embarrassed."

Despite being closely linked to Real Madrid, and having worked closely with Los Blancos superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the past, Valdano said it was clear Messi was the world's best player, something apparently recognised more outside of Argentina than inside the country.

"We are talking about the best player in the world, one of the best in history without any doubt," he said. "Everyone all around the world enjoys him, and here we condemn him. It is difficult for me to understand."

Lionel Messi vomited on the field in the opening minutes of the draw against Romania.
Lionel Messi shows his disappointment after the penalty shootout defeat to Chile.

Valdano said that he hoped that the weight of carrying impossible expectations did not lead Messi to decide to end his international career.

"We cannot expect Messi to carry all the expectations among the Argentine public," he said. "He's a genius, but you cannot expect him to be a genius all the time, in every game. On some occasions he cannot be a saviour. But that is not a reason to treat him so badly, as has happened since the Copa America.

"Fortunately he is a person who can accept these things naturally. I hope he does not get bored, does not get tired, that this does not produce a decisive reaction which breaks his relationship with the national team. We need him more than anyone."

Despite the Copa America disappointment, Messi's contribution to Barcelona's latest Treble means he is heavy favourite to win a fifth Ballon d'Or in January.

Speaking ahead of the new campaign, Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said that it is too early yet to be sure how the voting would go, but fellow Barca attackers Neymar and Luis Suarez also deserved to be on the podium at next January's gala ceremony.

"We will see how these months go," Bartomeu added. "Messi remains the No. 1. I hope that Messi, Neymar and Suarez are the three finalists for the FIFA Ballon d'Or, because they deserve it."

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