Diego Maradona Urges Lionel Messi to Retire from Argentina National Team

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2018

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi looks on during the Russia 2018 World Cup round of 16 football match between France and Argentina at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
JEWEL SAMAD/Getty Images

Argentina legend Diego Maradona believes Lionel Messi should retire from international duty because of the responsibility placed on him when the national team fail to win.

Messi has not featured for La Albiceleste since Argentina crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the round of 16, and Maradona feels he should spare himself the hassle of returning.

He told Mariano Verrina of Argentinian newspaper Clarin (h/t Goal's Daniel Edwards):

"What would I tell Messi? To not come back any more. To retire.

"The under-15s lose and it is Messi's fault, the fixture list in Argentina puts Racing against Boca and Messi is to blame. He is always to blame. Stop breaking my balls. 

"I would tell him: 'don't go anymore, man'. Let's see if they can handle that. Let's see if they're really big men."

Messi played a key role in helping Argentina reach the 2014 World Cup final and the CopaAmerica final in 2015 and 2016, but he has not won anything with the national side since claiming an Olympic gold medal in 2008.

Despite almost singlehandedly dragging the team to the 2018 World Cup on top of that, the forward still seems to bear responsibility for Argentina's collective struggles in recent years in the eyes of many, particularly in his home country.

Maradona believes criticism of Messi is unfair in this regard:

"I would have liked to see him tell us all to f--k off. Because he is not to blame for us not being world champions. Fine, we all placed our hopes in him, but when you go to the racetrack you hope your horse wins and he comes in eighth. 

"In Formula One [Sebastian] Vettel has a great engine and [Lewis] Hamilton beats him. Right now the national team doesn't do anything for me or for the people. We have lost that. The passion. It cannot play against Nicaragua or Malta, no, brother. We are throwing all the prestige we earned down the toilet."

Messi briefly retired from international duty in the aftermath of Argentina's penalty defeat to Chile in the 2016 Copa America final, but he reversed his decision soon after.

Despite Argentina reaching three finals in consecutive years, that did little but paper over some large cracks as the team underwent a succession of coaches and the Argentinian Football Association saw several presidents come and go.

He is yet to speak about his Argentina future after the World Cup, and caretaker boss Lionel Scaloni was unsure on the matter ahead of the last international break:

In the upcoming break this month, Messi has been left out again as Argentina face Iraq and Brazil. As both matches are friendlies, Messi skipping them may not necessarily indicate anything one way or another in relation to his future.

If Messi does return to international duty next year, La Albiceleste must concentrate their efforts on giving him a platform from which he can succeed, by getting the best out of the team-mates who have struggled to perform in an Argentina shirt.

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