Maradona: Messi's golden ball win was 'unfair'

Last updated 06:52 15/07/2014
Lionel Messi
Reuters
RELUCTANT WINNER: Lionel Messi, minutes after losing the final and moments after receiving the Golden Ball.
Diego Maradona
Reuters
FOOTBALL GREAT: Diego Maradona.

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Argentina forward Lionel Messi did not deserve to win the World Cup ''Golden Ball'' as the tournament's best player, according to his compatriot and former great Diego Maradona.

Messi received the award after Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany in the final, but he looked far from happy as he went up to collect the trophy.

''I could see he didn't want to go up and collect it,'' Maradona said on his television show ''De zurda'', adding that ''marketing people'' had made a decision he described as ''unfair''.

Maradona led Argentina to the World Cup in 1986 and was named the tournament's best player, but although Messi scored four goals in the group stage he failed to find the net in the knockout rounds and was subdued in the final.

Overnight, Fifa president Sepp Blatter also expressed surprise at the choice, which was made by the soccer governing body's technical study group.

''Shall I be diplomatic or tell the truth, OK the truth... I was a bit surprised he was the choice, but his goals were decisive at the start of the tournament,'' Blatter told reporters at his final media briefing of the 2014 World Cup.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella, however, backed the decision to give the award to his team's captain.

''I think he did deserve it. He played an extraordinary World Cup and he was a fundamental factor to our team,'' Sabella said.

Maradona, who said Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez should have won the award after scoring six goals in Brazil, was happy with the overall performance of the Argentina team.

''We raised our flag high, there's no doubt about that,'' he said.

''Germany won due to a misunderstanding in the defence, but at no point were they better than us. They showed us a lot of respect and our lads earned that out on the pitch.''

MESSI VS MARADONA

Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are great Argentine footballers with very different personalities but ''Leo'' became ''Diego'' for a brief moment when he scored in the World Cup group game against Bosnia.

The normally introverted Messi celebrated the goal, his first at a World Cup for eight years, with a primeval scream reminiscent of the raw passion that made Maradona such an idol at home.

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While Maradona used to draw attention to himself as a player and in his private life, Messi was a shy character who shone on the pitch and preferred to maintain a low profile in his personal life and keep media appearances to a minimum.

Maradona still revelled in the glory of leading Argentina to their second World Cup victory almost 30 years ago, while Messi's dream was over yesterday when Germany won the final 1-0 late in extra time.

Messi always tried to avoid comparisons with Maradona, although that was going to be an impossible task.

''I don't want to win the World Cup with Argentina so people say that I'm better than Pele or Maradona. I just want to achieve that with my fellow players on the national team,'' Messi said in an ESPN interview ahead of the final.

POOR SLUM

Messi's career, and his life, could not be more different to those of Maradona who grew up in a poor slum in Buenos Aires.

He caught the public eye for the first time when he was 10-years-old and told a TV show: ''I've got two dreams. First playing in a World Cup, and then winning the World Cup.''

Messi was often criticised at home because he moved to Spain at the age of 11 to join Barcelona's academy system, and he was perceived as not being as committed to the national team as he should have been.

In 1986, Maradona led Argentina to the world title in Mexico and from that moment his explosive character emerged and his brilliant performances on the field were interspersed with scandals off it.

He struggled for years with drug problems and was embroiled in disputes with Fifa and fatherhood scandals. One of his most memorable outbursts was an incident in which he shot at journalists on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

In the last decade, he became a friend of late Venezuela president Hugo Chavez and Cuba's former leader Fidel Castro, among other left-wing politicians.

Messi, on the other hand, regularly shone in Spain, but struggled to repeat those performances for Argentina. He was a four-times world player of the year, but has never won a major title with his country. His Olympic gold medal was not really recognised by Argentines.

Four years ago in South Africa, the two men came together at the last World Cup when Maradona guided Argentina to the last eight as coach in a disappointing tournament for Messi in which he failed to score in five matches.

''Messi is the best player in the world,'' Maradona said then, a phrase he has repeated several times since.

- Reuters

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