The Barcelona talisman has been handed the captain’s armband by his country, but that role has been questioned by an iconic countryman Lionel Messi is not a leader, according to Diego Maradona, with the Barcelona and Argentina talisman accused of “going to the bathroom 20 times before a game”.
At 31 years of age and having spent more than a decade as an elite performer in the global game, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner is accustomed to shouldering pressure and expectation.
He has, however, struggled with the burden of captaincy at times, despite having taken the armband for club and country in recent years.
Maradona believes Messi is the wrong choice for Argentina as, while he is unquestionably their best player, he lacks the personal skills required to inspire those around him.
The 1986 World Cup winner, who saw the Albiceleste struggle at Russia 2018 over the summer, told La Ultima Palabra Mexico : “Messi’s a great player, but he’s not a leader.
“Before talking to the coach and players, he’ll play on the PlayStation. Then, on the field, he wants to be the leader. He’s the best in the world with Cristiano [Ronaldo].
“For me, it’s difficult to say it but it’s useless to make a leader out of a man who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game.
“There’s no two ways about it. Let’s stop making a God out of Messi. Messi is just another player for Argentina.”
Messi has not figured for his country since suffering a last-16 exit in his latest showing on a World Cup stage.
He has ruled himself out of contention, with interim coach Lionel Scaloni being forced to call upon attacking alternatives.
Argentina remain hopeful that an all-time great can be brought back into the fold , but Maradona believes less needs to be asked of him before a recall can be considered.
He added: “I wouldn’t call him up right now, but never say never. We have to take the pressure off him.
“We have to take the leadership away from Messi for him to be the Messi we want him to be.
“I’d make him play as I want. I’d call him up and play him how I know Messi plays.”
Messi has earned 128 caps for Argentina.