LIONEL Messi’s family have hit back at Diego Maradona after the Argentinian soccer legend’s extraordinary attack on the South American nation’s other football star.
The 1986 World Cup winner claimed the Barcelona forward played differently when he was representing the Spanish side and said it was a waste of time trying to turn him into a leader “because he goes to the toilet 20 times before a match.”
Maradona blasted Messi saying he plays better for Barca and should never be picked for Argentian agaon[/caption]
Maradona, who is idolised in Argentina because of his performances for his nation, also insisted he would not call the 31-year-old up for international duty if he was made manager of the national team again.
His astonishing attack was made during an interview on Fox Sports.
Messi’s cousin Maxi Biancucchi branded Maradona, who has battled weight problems as well as addictions to drugs and alcohol, “ignorant” over his comments.
The 34-year-old, a professional footballer with second division Paraguayan side Rubio Nu who is nicknamed El Primo de Messi – Spanish for Messi’s cousin – raged: “It’s ignorant to discredit Leo.
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“It’s sad to see how someone who boasts of being a leader, can talk so badly about a player who’s currently the best we’ve got and will probably be so for a long time yet.
“And he’s done it at a time when he should be helping to rebuild if he loves the national side as he says he does.”
His comments met with a mixed reaction in Argentina, where Messi has never played club football and has always faced minority but vocal criticism that he lacks passion when he plays for his country.
Lawyer Alba Llanes wrote: “When the criticism comes from a drug addict, it has no value.”
Former teacher Carlos Munoz Alvarez added: “I agree with you Maxi Biancucchi.
“A man who’s physically and mentally ill like fat-man Diego cannot criticise Messi.
“Argentina doesn’t need a leader, it needs a lot of leaders. Messi is a giant playing as he knows how to. The other one lives on his memories.”
But Gilberto Ruiz Pintos replied: “What’s untrue in what Diego said!! It’s the way it is. Stop treating Messi as the best, because he isn’t.”
Another Maradona fan added: “Maradona can say whatever he wants because he’s already proven himself on the pitch, not like others who used the national side to fill their pockets.”
Maradona’s toilet reference was thought to be a dig at Messi’s nerves before games that have seen him vomit in some important matches.
The 57-year-old, current manager of Mexican second division club Dorados, also said it was time to stop treating Messi as a God although he said the Barcelona forward and Cristiano Ronaldo were the best players in the world.
Maradona’s relationship with Messi was damaged when he was caught out telling Pele in Paris during a June 2006 charity act that the Barcelona star didn’t have the personality to be a leader.
His comments were picked up by the cameras and microphones in place for the event.
Maradona was not among the guests at Messi’s June 30 2017 wedding to childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo in their home city of Rosario.
Jorge Sampaoli was relieved of his duties as manager of the national team after Argentina’s chaotic World Cup performance.
Inexperienced Lionel Scaloni has been appointed caretaker manager.
Last month he refused to say if Messi would represent his country again after he opted out of two September friendlies against Guatemala and Colombia.