“He doesn’t have the personality to be a leader,” Maradona said of Messi when asked by Brazilian soccer legend Pele, without knowing that a microphone was working during a pre-Euro 2016 five-on-five friendship match held in Paris on Thursday.
Pele had only asked Maradona if he knew Messi personally and if he thought he was “a good person”, reports Xinhua.
Maradona’s reply went round the whole world and triggered controversy in Argentina, where many agree with Maradona while many others have repudiated him.
Sergio Batista, Argentina’s former coach (2010-2011), said on Friday that he believed Messi “has a lot of personality when playing”.
“Maybe he is missing a little bit when in the group but when he talks in the changing rooms, they listen,” said Batista who also used to coach China’s Shanghai Shenhua.
Former champion with Argentina in Mexico 1986 and runner-up in Italy 1990, Jorge Barruchaga, believes that the Barcelona’s star player “is a leader in his own way”.
“Messi is a leader. He is a different type of leader. The leaders of the past no longer exist. There are different leaders. Messi is there to carry the team on his shoulders and, in fact, this is what he is doing,” said Barruchaga.
Former Bulgarian forward Hristo Stoichkov showed his outrage at Maradona’s comments by saying that “if Messi is the best player in the world, he has personality”.
“If he is Barcelona’s captain, it is because he has personality,” Stoichkov told Fox Sports.
On social networks opinions were divided. There was support for both players who are considered the best Argentinian players in history.
Maradona coached Messi during the South Africa 2010 World Cup where Argentina was knocked out in the quarterfinals by Germany.
“We all pamper him so that he can be what he deserves to be, the leader of the team,” the former Argentine coach said of Messi before travelling to the African country.
“We don’t need him to make speeches, we never need him for that. When he is playing, if you don’t pass the ball to Messi, it is an error,” joked Maradona.