International

Martino defends Messi

2015-08-05 17:00
Lionel Messi (AFP)

London - Argentina coach Gerardo Martino has said that if he was Lionel Messi he would have stopped playing for the national team after receiving so much criticism.

Messi again failed to bring home any silverware after Argentina lost the Copa America final to hosts Chile last month and it led to a torrent of abuse from fans and the media.

That included criticism from Argentina great Diego Maradona who said the 28-year-old Barcelona player, who has scored 46 goals in 103 internationals, had been mollycoddled.

However, Martino, who coached Messi at Barca, has defended the four times world player of the year and said he would remain in his squad following speculation the forward would be given time out of the limelight due to the pressure on him.

"If I was Messi I would have left the national team some time ago and I would keep playing in Barcelona," Martino told Fox Sports in Argentina.

"I will call him up (for the friendly with Mexico on September 8) but I don't know whether he will come. It would be very frustrating if he didn't.

"Nobody said that Leo would not play the friendlies. This was claimed, I don't know why, and now we have to explain that there is nothing behind it.

"This didn't come from the mouth of Messi, from my mouth or from the mouth of the president of the Argentine football Association."

Having inspired Barcelona to a treble last season, Messi arrived on top form for the Copa America but for the second time in his career Argentina fell at the final hurdle.

That disappointment came on the back of a runners-up place at the 2014 World Cup and means Messi's only trophy with the national team is a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.

Messi has struggled to live up to the expectations of the Argentina fans and Maradona, who led the country to World Cup glory in 1986, has said the forward should be doing more.

"We have the best in the world, who scores four against Real Sociedad and then comes here and does nothing," Maradona told reporters after the Copa America final.

"I've had enough of those who say that we have to look after him."

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