ARGENTINA

Maradona lays into Messi for ‘staged’ retirement bluff

Argentina great Diego Maradona has criticised Leo Messi, suggesting that the Barcelona star's retirement from international football, and subsequent change of heart, was 'staged'.

Maradona lays into Messi for ‘staged’ retirement bluff
Alex Caparros Getty Images

Argentina legend Diego Maradona has criticised Leo Messi, suggesting that the Barcelona star's retirement from international football, and subsequent change of heart, was "staged". 'El Pelusa' also attacked the AFA's Standards Commission - "They haven't got a fucking clue" he scathed.

“I don't know whether this was staged to make us understand that he'd lost three finals, but we never lost by big margins. I think Messi's been a bit of a barnpot”, Maradona told Buenos-Aires-based Rádio La Red.

Messi announced his retirement from international football after Argentina lost the 2016 Copa América final to Chile on penalties in June, with the Barcelona forward crucially missing his spot-kick in the shoot-out. He said afterwards: “This is the end for me with the national team, it's not for me. I think it's best for everyone, for me and for many people who want it. The choice for me is over, it is a decision”.

That defeat came just over a year after another defeat to their neighbours in the 2015 Copa América final and losing the the 2014 World Cup final to Germany.

Maradona believes Messi spoke too rashly and upset many people in Argentina with his comments. “He got annoyed for nothing. He wasn't to blame for the defeat, others were. So why did he announce his retirement? He spoke too quickly, made everyone hold their breath (on a potential return)”.

Earlier this month, the 29-year-old confirmed he would rejoin the national set-up after being convinced by new coach Edgar Bauza to make a comeback. “A lot of things were going through my head the day of the final, and I really thought about stopping, but I love my country”, said Messi when he announced his return.

Messi is set to return to the fold when Argentina begin their World Cup qualifiers at home to Uruguay and away to Venezuela on 1st and 6th September.