Diego Maradona said Argentina captain Lionel Messi must not follow through on his vow to quit international football as he took aim at the country’s governing body.
An emotional Messi dropped a bombshell following Argentina’s heartbreaking 4-2 penalty shoot-out loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final on Sunday, announcing his intention to walk away from the national team.
The 29-year-old’s revelation came in the wake of Argentina’s third consecutive defeat in a major final as their 23-year wait for a title continued.
But Argentine legend Maradona – regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all-time – said Messi, whom he coached during his time as national team boss between 2008 and 2010, must play at the 2018 World Cup.
“Messi has to stay in the national team. He will go to Russia in form to be world champion,” Maradona said via La Nacion.
“He has to rely more on boys who can help take the team forward and less on those who say they have to go.
“Those who are saying he should quit are doing it so that we won’t see what a disaster Argentine football has become.”
Messi’s plan to retire comes as the Argentine Football Association (AFA) implodes.
With the AFA’s presidential election marred by controversy and uncertainty, Maradona added: “I am very sorry and very angry with what is happening to Argentine football.
“We hit bottom, we reached the bottom.”