Diego Maradona blasts Lionel Messi after Argentina World Cup exit

Diego Maradona blasts Lionel Messi after Argentina World Cup exit

DIEGO MARADONA has laid into Lionel Messi following Argentina’s exit from the World Cup.

Diego Maradona has criticised Lionel Messi and the Argentina side

Messi played an ineffectual role for most of the 4-3 defeat to Argentina on Saturday.

The Barcelona star played as a false nine with Cristian Pavon and Angel Di Maria either side of him.

It meant centre-forwards Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero were left on the bench.

And Argentina icon Maradona has criticised Messi for his performance, likening him to Argentine comic character Patoruzú.

“I watched Leo very closely,” Maradona said.

“(Messi was) very far from the goal. Yes he was put at No 9 but he has to bring the game together.

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“We are talking more about Patoruzú than about Lionel Messi.”

Maradona went on to criticise manager Jorge Sampaoli for his starting XI.

“It was evident from the formation, Pavon, Messi and Di Maria had to go to attack,” he said.

“(They had to) get in the area around the penalty box, push the centre-backs and trap them in.

“Yes they can create play, but they are not forwards.”

Maradona has cut a controversial figure at the World Cup this summer, celebrating wildly after goals scored by his nation.

He was spotted swearing at Nigeria fans after a late winner in the group stage, while he was also checked out by medical staff during the game in St Petersburg.

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It is not known if Maradona will continue to watch games at the World Cup in Russia now Argentina are out.

As for the future, Maradona wants a new breed of players to be trusted in Argentina’s next tournament – the Copa America next summer.

“We have to aim at the kids, go through the good things that the boys leave us with even though they won’t be there anymore,” he said.

“(We have to) try to inculcate the sacred fire that at times seems to be lacking in Argentina.”