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Lionel Messi Slammed by Diego Maradona After 2015 Copa America Failure

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2015

Argentina's Lionel Messi looks on after the Copa America final game agains Chile at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, July 4, 2015. Chile's goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made a save and striker Alexis Sanchez converted the winning penalty as host Chile defeated Argentina 4-1 in a shootout after a 0-0 draw in the Copa America final.(AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

Argentinian legend Diego Maradona has criticised Lionel Messi's performances at the 2015 Copa America, but he believes many have gone overboard in their assessment of the icon's inability to impact the Albiceleste's final loss to Chile.

Maradona—who led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup—bemoaned Messi's lack of influence during the tournament to Ole (h/t Marca):

"It's logical that he's come in for flak, it's easy to explain. We've got the best player in the world, who goes and scores four goals against Real Sociedad, and then he comes here and doesn't touch the ball. You're left saying to yourself, 'Dammit, are you Argentinian or Swedish?'"

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 27:  Diego Maradona head coach of Argentina gestures to Lionel Messi of Argentina during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Round of Sixteen match between Argentina and Mexico at Soccer City Stadium on June 27, 2010 in
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

He also doesn't believe Messi should receive preferential treatment because he's a global icon for Barcelona. Even so, Maradona indicated reactions to Messi's international performances are over the top, reported Marca:

People have got to stop droning on about Messi needing to be pampered. Messi should be treated just like any other player who pulls on the national-team shirt. Like the best in the world, for better or worse. Still, it's not like Messi killed or raped someone; we mustn't make a drama out of this.

That said, running a poll to ask if he should play for the national team or not, no, that's losing the plot guys. We mustn't be extremist, but we mustn't get used to always finishing second either.

Antonio Cuccitini, Messi's grandfather, was among those to criticise the player after Argentina fell short: "Some of him was there," he told Radio Casilda (h/t Joe Strange of the MailOnline). "Triumphs are the greatest things there are. But the last three games he was bad. He was lazy."

Messi scored one and assisted three in six matches at the South American tournament, as recorded by WhoScored.com.

Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

However, after netting in the opening 2-2 draw with Paraguay, all three of his assists came in the 6-1 semi-final beating of the same side.

Messi is a man of subtle movement and game-changing intelligence, but many would have expected him to provide a telling contribution in more than two matches.

This is especially true after he racked up 43 goals and 18 assists in La Liga last season, per WhoScored. Messi is surrounded by world-class quality in the Argentina national setup, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in the squad, but Gerardo Martino's team don't enjoy the same attacking flow as Messi shares with Neymar and Luis Suarez at Barcelona.

Quite often, you're only as good as the players around you, as highlighted by Guardian writer Sid Lowe:

Sid Lowe @sidlowe

If Higuain takes those two chances one year apart, is Messi the best player of all time?

Messi has led Argentina to two final losses in the space of a year. Last summer's World Cup defeat to Germany should still be seen as an excellent achievement for Argentina, who moved into the No. 1 spot of the FIFA World Rankings with July's update. Such is the expectation surrounding the player, who can star in this achievement and still be deemed a disappointment.

Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

At 28 years old it's likely Messi will have one more World Cup and Copa America to suppress his doubters. Not winning a major tournament is regularly used against him by those who question his placement on the sport's overall list of legends.

Messi is a victim of his own club success in this regard. We're so used to seeing him score ridiculous amounts of goals en route to silverware with Barca—recently highlighted by a second treble-winning season with the club—that expectations for the national team are unfairly skewed.

As Maradona hints, however, Argentina would be far worse off without the era-defining player.

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