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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Oct 29, 2008

Messi plays down fears over Maradona

MILAN, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Argentina forward Lionel Messi has said he is unperturbed by Diego Maradona's possible appointment as Argentina coach despite the soccer great accusing him of selfish play in the past.

Maradona, who captained his country to World Cup glory in 1986, said on Tuesday he was on the verge of being named national coach.

''They were things that were said on the spur of the moment. I know that Diego appreciates me and I don't hold a grudge,'' Barcelona's Messi told Wednesday's Gazzetta dello Sport.

''There will be no problem. He is a great. I admire him for what he has given to Argentinian soccer. I am optimistic. The generation that won the Beijing Olympics is up and coming.

''If we had been more fortunate in the 2006 World Cup quarter-final with Germany, we would have won. Argentina have missed out in the World Cup for too long.''

Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who lifted the 2006 World Cup, welcomed the potential appointment of one of soccer's most controversial figures.

''His charisma will make the players follow him 100 percent. They will listen to him like an oracle,'' he told Italian media.

Maradona's daughter is having a baby with Argentina's Atletico Madrid forward Sergio Aguero.

Messi and Aguero have both been talked up as the new Maradona with the pair in the running for the Ballon d'Or -- the former European footballer of the year award.

''I don't know what I would give to be the first Argentinan to win it,'' Messi said before suggesting who should win.

''Aguero. But Torres and Xavi deserve it too. From Cristiano Ronaldo to Kaka, from Ibrahimovic to Rooney, everyone is in the running. (Barcelona team mate Andres) Iniesta is missing and I don't understand why. He is a genius.''

Messi's respect for Spain striker Fernando Torres extends to his club side Liverpool, who the Argentine thinks are Barcelona's big rivals in the Champions League this term.

''If I had to choose it would be Liverpool,'' he said. ''They have Torres, Gerrard, Kuyt, Mascherano and they are difficult to face. Maybe there are teams that play better but I see them in the final in Rome.''

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