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Will Maradona & Messi combine or combust?

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Jonathan Stevenson | 06:00 UK time, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Love him or loathe him, Diego Armando Maradona will be one of the major stories of the World Cup in South Africa this summer.

Twenty-four years after inspiring Argentina to victory in Mexico with an individual brilliance seldom witnessed, El Diego - now his beloved country's team coach - once again has the hopes of a nation resting on his shoulders.

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World Cup guide - Argentina

The difference this time is he can share the burden.

As Maradona barks out his instructions from the touchline, the on-field focus will be on an entirely different Argentine, albeit similarly short in stature, fleet of foot and with the ability to change a game in an instant: Lionel Messi.

For the Albiceleste, World Cup 2010 is destined to become the tale of Maradona and Messi. But whether the two protagonists in this story are compatible or combustible is not an easy question to answer.

I learned much about both men on a recent holiday to Argentina, especially how they are perceived in their homeland.

Having been quoted the astonishing sum of 100,000 Euros for the privilege of speaking to Mr Maradona for only half an hour (and only on the subject of the national team, at that), I turned to Argentine football expert Marcela Mora y Araujo, who translated Maradona's autobiography 'El Diego' into English - for answers.

"It's a big mystery how well Maradona and Messi get on, because I don't think they know each other particularly well," Mora y Araujo told me. "It's a big question mark, but I'm not sure whether it really matters how much they end up liking each other.

"What matters most for Argentina is how the team is formed and how Messi fits into it. What Maradona must focus on is the team-building element. Without a gameplan, without every player understanding what their role is - including Messi - there is little chance of doing well."

The subject of Argentina's World Cup bid throws up more questions than answers, especially after their well-documented struggle to qualify.

Can Maradona get the best out of Messi? Does he expect too much from the man he has called the heir to his throne? Can they both handle the weight of expectation? Not only in South America but all around the world, the dynamic between these two intriguing personalities is a topic of colossal interest.

After all, this is not simply the story of the manager and his magician. Since taking over as Argentina coach in 2008, Maradona has endured a troubled reign, only just leading his disjointed, inconsistent side to South Africa. Once a deity in his homeland, the hero of Mexico '86 is now constantly mocked for his team selections and temper tantrums.

"Maradona has reincarnated himself as manager of the national team and left himself exposed in a job every man in the street knows they can do better," added Mora y Araujo. "He is no longer untouchable, a man who can do no wrong. Argentina has a lot of people who love their football, and no-one is going to be duped.

"He is not the Maradona of 1986, he is a different Maradona now. No-one can take away what he did as a player, but this version stands a very real risk of failing and there has been a lot of criticism directed towards him. Some of the insults are shocking - no-one is biting their tongue simply because of who he is."

The vitriol Maradona has been exposed to has caused the iconic 49-year-old, not for the first time in his controversial life, to lash out. In November, Fifa banned him from football for two months for a lewd outburst following a 1-0 win in Argentina's final World Cup qualifier in Uruguay - the match that sealed their place in South Africa.

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Argetina's World Cup qualification highlights

Still, former Argentina striker Gabriel Batistuta thinks his old team-mate can cope with the hostility he may face over the next few weeks. "Maradona knows how to handle this situation, knows how to deal with pressure better than anyone else," Batistuta told BBC Sport. "Since he's been five-years-old people have asked for things from him, so it won't be a problem.

"Argentina can win the World Cup with any coach based on the quality of its players, but Maradona's support can be key, bearing in mind all the implications he has for the Argentina national team. His experience in the world of football means he knows how to handle this type of situation."

Mora y Araujo disagrees with Batistuta by suggesting Maradona - who has had two heart attacks and has struggled in the past with drug addiction and weight gain - is not the man Messi should turn to for advice. "The pressure on Messi is overwhelming, the media interest in him comparable only with what Maradona generated in his career," she said. "But he's always had that pressure, so I don't think he's particularly frail.

"With Maradona, you have to remember he's an unwell person. He could help a lot of players achieve things, but it's random as to whether he will. Maradona doesn't have an amazing coping mechanism that he can pass on. If anything, I'd say Messi should be advising Maradona as he seems to cope with it all far better."

One thing is certain, Maradona will not treat Messi in the manner he is used to at Barcelona. The Catalan club's coach, Pep Guardiola, handles his star man with kid gloves, once claiming Messi could "play poorly once, twice, three times - as often as he pleases".

Maradona, however, seems intent on cranking up the pressure on Messi, challenging him to deal with the already gruelling demands of worldwide expectation. "Messi is better than I was at the 1986 World Cup," roared Maradona soon after the squad got together. "Messi needs to be the leader of this team, the icing on the cake," he added shortly after. "We need him to do this."

Messi admits he found Maradona's appointment difficult at the beginning. "At first, it was strange to have him as our coach," he said. "The truth is he was a little imposing. But we started getting used to him and he's been our coach for a while, so now it's normal."

For a country whose collective hopes and dreams appear so reliant on one man, I was surprised to see little positive coverage of Messi from the Argentine press in March, with the media frustrated by his inability to reproduce his club form for his country. Mora y Araujo believes they "question the Argentine-ness" of a man who has lived in Barcelona since he was 13 and is sometimes unfairly dubbed the 'Catalan'. But that view is not shared by the fans who will cheer Messi on from the bars of Buenos Aires and beyond.

Messi shirts are ubiquitous and the people are rightly proud to call the reigning Fifa World Player of the Year one of their own. Their eulogising may not have reached Maradona proportions yet, but then not many sportsmen get a church named after them. An Argentine I met did not have a picture of his wife and children in his wallet but one of Maradona.

And not once was there ever the remotest suggestion that the locals question Messi's commitment in the blue and white. After all, this is the guy who won a World Youth Cup in 2005, Olympic Gold in 2008 and got to the final of the Copa America in 2007, all while representing Argentina.

The people also remember how Messi took on the hierarchy at Barca - the club he owes his career to - two years ago in order to play at the Olympics for his country. "Messi is extraordinarily popular in Argentina, he is hailed as a hero," says Mora y Araujo.

Messi himself is adamant: "It's very special for me to wear the shirt of the national team. I think it's a beautiful responsibility to be playing with this shirt, especially with such a football crazy country watching everything we do."

For Messi, the tournament provides his very own shot at immortality. Despite scoring 47 goals for Barcelona last season, he admits "you only become a legend if you win the World Cup". The 22-year-old will need to close the chasm between his displays for Barca and those in an Argentine shirt if he is to join his boss in the pantheon of greats.

It is not just Messi's status that is at risk in South Africa (as his then Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho's was in 2006), it is Maradona's legacy. If Maradona the coach emulates Maradona the player and wins the World Cup he will have achieved something arguably as unexpected as what occurred in 1986. But the risks of abject failure will be at the forefront of his mind.

Messi is almost certain to have another crack at winning a World Cup, but he is unlikely to ever go into a major tournament again in such scintillating, all-conquering form. After scoring four goals for Barca against Arsenal in April, Maradona, who made the 'Hand of God' famous, said Messi was "playing a kickabout with Jesus".

Once more, Argentine prayers are with Maradona - the man they call "the chosen one". But I will leave the final word to Leonardo, my guide on a tour from Salta to Cafayate in the north-west of the country, and a man who had tears in his eyes when he tried to express how much Maradona meant to him and his people.

"Diego Maradona is not Argentine, Diego Maradona is Argentina," he said. "Maradona means so much to all of us, he is not so much a person as a way of life. Diego is our God and he will not fail us."

World Cup team guide - Argentina (international version)
Argentina's World Cup qualification highlights (international version)
Watch Maradona's 'hand of God' beat England (UK only)
Watch Argentina win the 1986 World Cup final (UK only)


Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Whilst I can understand this focus on the star players, it isn't true Argentina have a great pool of players. In attack yes, but their defence is below average. They have poor full-backs and central defenders who can be relied upon to make at least one error a game. Maradona has focused more on the defence, because of this. Messi isn't really going to be given much chance to becoame a legend with such a defensive emphasis placed on the team. If he does shine though, it would be more impressive than having done so with a team built around him.

    Before people go on about Zanetti and Cambiasso, neither of these players have played well recently for Argentina (Cambiasso in particular).

  • Comment number 2.

    which world cup maradona will it be this time.
    82 90 94 tournements when he was sent off, disapointing, disgraced or

    86 tournement when you have to say that was quite magificent.

    whichever one it is the little man loves the world cup and the world cup seems to like him and give him luck.

    just hope england dont have to play argentina could not take maradona beating us once again.

  • Comment number 3.

    sturge999, in 1990 Maradona was probably only half-fit for most of the tournament but he still inspired Argentina to the final. I don't think he 'disgraced' himself or was disappointing in this tournament, despite the tantrums in the semi final or final.

    As a sportsman and a person Messi is already far superior to Maradona though. I hope Messi never becomes the egotistical idiot that Maradona did.

  • Comment number 4.

    Argentina to lose to England in the third place play-off game...

  • Comment number 5.

    I will never doubt the sheer brilliance of Messi. He is without doubt the most outstanding player in the world at the moment. Whilst Cristiano Ronaldo might be the more complete all round player, Messi has been in inspired form. Some of this is down to his own ridiculous talent. His ability to turn on a sixpence and drop his shoulders and go past players is unheralded. Even Ronaldo doesn’t have the fluidity that Messi does in terms of going past players.

    Messi for Argentina is a different proposition and its not hard to see why

    At Barcelona he is nurtured beyond belief by Guardiola and is playing in a 4-3-3 formation which suits him to the ground. He knows his role and so do his other team mates. Coupled with the fact his other Barcelona team mates are not bad either... (Possibly the biggest understatement ever I know). A good player always looks better with better players, and let’s be honest, the passes Xavi and Iniesta play to Messi could make Heskey look a world beater.

    Quite frankly, Argentina do not have a Xavi and Iniesta who can play the ball Messi thrives on. The formation is unfamiliar to him there is so much pressure on his shoulders, its unreal. Maradona may have been the star at 1986 BUT I do seem to remember there were 10 other players on his team if im not mistaken.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think like previous Real Madrid models of their Galacticos this team could be too imbalanced.. great players and wonderful footballers but how to fit them in.. I disagree with # 1 too... you take in form players to World Cups and Zanetti and Cambiasso were instrumental in winning a treble with their club and toppling the best club side in the world with a defensive masterclass on their own patch.. sorry but not taking them is a mistake.

    What followed was obviously not good but that moment in 94 when Maradona scored that goal will always live on in memory for me as being one of my first and most exciting world cup moments.. Who can hate a comeback no matter how short lived.

  • Comment number 7.

    The question is, who will play up front for them?

    Their striking options are by far the best in the tournament.

  • Comment number 8.

    Araujo : What he says about Maradona, I completely agree. However Messi's problem is Maradona. It's not enough to have 11 brilliant players, if it was we would not have coaches and managers. So Maradona is doing something. What I believe he is doing, is putting the pressure on his players, and stiffling them, confusing them with rubbish tactics, and when push comes to shove he will blame them too when he team falls on its face. Maradona could never handle pressure...

  • Comment number 9.

    Messi has the ability to be a Maradona - this is clear. This is his chance to join the greats like Maradona and Zidane.

  • Comment number 10.

    After the God-like aduration Maradona received from his countrymen and around the globe in '86 it must be unbelievably difficult for him to live in the mortal world without always being the centre of attention, hence his second coming as messiah to the national team. I fear for his health after his heart-attacks though and pray it isn't all too much for the little guy.

    Does Diego need his reputation tarnished and be compared to his younger protege Messi though? - no. Remember him from that iconic picture taking on the Belgiums in '86 and that he actually won the World Cup and skippered a weak team to the final four years later too! Yes, he's self destructive living life at the limits..a bit like Gazza, but what a footballer! He's why Messi wears no.10 and bears the comparison. He has the players and surely good coaches around him, so Argentina wont be far off if everything clicks.

  • Comment number 11.

    think like previous Real Madrid models of their Galacticos this team could be too imbalanced.. great players and wonderful footballers but how to fit them in.. I disagree with # 1 too... you take in form players to World Cups and Zanetti and Cambiasso were instrumental in winning a treble with their club and toppling the best club side in the world with a defensive masterclass on their own patch.. sorry but not taking them is a mistake.

    What followed was obviously not good but that moment in 94 when Maradona scored that goal will always live on in memory for me as being one of my first and most exciting world cup moments.. Who can hate a comeback no matter how short lived.
    ...........................................
    nonsense mate !
    Maradona is a conservative manager, tactics wise!!

    They'll probably be the only big nation who wont use raiding fullbacks !
    The back 4 will hardly cross the half way line..
    And maradona will not try and fit all his attacking talents into the team..
    Argentina will have the strongest bench in the competition, thats for sure !

  • Comment number 12.

    I wonder what the repercussions on Maradona's status will be should they not be? Will he be no longer seen as a deity?
    It was very brave of him to take the job like that.=, either way.

  • Comment number 13.

    On Maradona at Italia 90 I seem to remember Argentina being generally ordinary throughout the whole tournament and placing a rather large emphasis on negative and defensive football. Every game they won by a moment of genius by Maradona. I can't remember if Maradona was half fit but if he was makes his achievement all the more spectacular.

    There's a lot pressure on Messi to replicate the form in a Barca shirt for Argentina, I'd say that's an almost impossible task. However hoping he does well and looking forward to watching him and we will see?

  • Comment number 14.

    # 11 Im sorry but where in that did I say they are full on attacking?? The comparison to Real extends only to having a few similar players and not enough positions to accommodate them without having an imbalanced team..

    I think your statement about tactics and Maradona also doesnt go hand in hand as this has been one of his criticisms as a coach.. plenty heart but not enough knowledge and tactical ability..

  • Comment number 15.

    I have no time for Maradona. He was a cheat on and off the pitch. Argentina must have little morals to allow such a disgrace to lead their national team.

  • Comment number 16.

    I get the feeling Maradona is scared or wary of using Messi to his full potential in case it takes some of the limelight away from him. He's just not given the freedom to express his talents to their maximum like he is at club level. He's surely the one player who just tell to go and do what you do best and you build your team around that....

  • Comment number 17.

    can't believe zanetti is out. in a country with poor full back options. madness. however you still can't bet against argentina, i think maradonna is imcompetent but with the world class attacking talent they possess, including the phenomenal talent of messi who can win games on his own, it just might all come together for them.

  • Comment number 18.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 19.

    subterranean:

    i believe maradona only turned up in 1990 for one game (brazil) and the team was really average. it was 1994 when he was disgraced just when it looked like he was getting back to form he was in at napoli.

    just think there is something about maradona and the world cup. i honestly think the 1986 inspired maradona will turn up. watched the last qualifying game v's uraguay he got it just right that night.

    as for mr messi he just gets used in the wrong way in this side he's got his head screwed on maradona should listen and play him in the way barca do.

  • Comment number 20.

    Good blog.

    As a matter of interest, are there many people who have the world cup as both a player and a manager if anybody knows?

  • Comment number 21.

    Khadrim
    I see what you say about defensive focus and Messi but poor full backs? Heinze has some quality and I think not taking Zanetti is a huge mistake! Samuel is also quality and plays with Zanetti should be a no brainer! As Capello should have done with Scholes more effort should have been put into getting Requelme to play at 2006 he was brilliant and might actually be able to get something from the abundance of talent up top. I don't know how you choose between Millito,Tevez, Aguero and Higuain up top and throw in Di Maria and Messi if you go 4-3-3 but surely you take Cambiasso I mean the season he's had at Inter and the way he played in 2006... what if Macherano gets injured? I would have played Cambiasso Macher and Requelme with Tevez Millito Messi up top with higuain aguero and Di Maria super subs like tevez and Messi were in 06 Zanetti should be sarting XI! Maradonna will waste this talent or win by blind luck!

  • Comment number 22.

    Walter Samuel didn't get a look in under Maradona until the March friendly against Germany, but one would think being brilliant for Inter earned him a chance. By that line of thinking Cambiasso and Zanetti had a case for inclusion. Anyway, nullifying Messi won't stop Higuain, Tevez, Aguero, di Maria... Further reading: http://magicspongers.blogspot.com/2010/05/hand-of-god-random-squad.html

  • Comment number 23.

    # 20 Sean wrote: are there many people who have the world cup as both a player and a manager if anybody knows?

    'Der Kaiser' Franz Beckenbauer captained West Germany to win in 1974 and managed them in 1990 team funnily enough against Maradona's Argentina - he was also on the losing end to Maradona's '86 team as Germany's manager in the final at Mexico'86!

  • Comment number 24.

    Johnathan,

    Although your experience in Argentina and your interview with Marcela Mora y Araujo there's actually someone closer to home who you could have spoken to who has, I think, the best view on the Argentine national team.

    Tim Vickery has posted articles on here and he's suggested that maybe Messi isn't the main man here - it could be Veron.

    Veron, like Xavi (although he plays further up the field) is the player who will dictate the play and provide balls to Messi and play the one-two. Additionally he can switch play over to Di Maria on the other flank - using Messi as a decoy out on the right.

    There's also the fact that Messi or Di Maria could be Tevez or Aguero and the same results could be achieved - the same constent though would be Veron.

    There's no doubt about the x-factor Messi provides but I feel there's a lack of acknowledgement for the tactical setup of Argentina - after all football's a team game and it's the job of the other 10 to provide Messi a platform to show why's he's currently the world's best player.

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 25.

    I remember back in 2002 when Real Madrid won their last champions league title, with a squad of extremely talented players, i had this friend who claimed anyone could lead a bunch of talented players to success even him. the next year, madrid let go of del bosque, signed on Ronaldo (da lima) and let CLaude Makalele move on to Chelsea. well, they couldn't get past Juventus in what was essentially a midfielders game, and they have not being able to come near the semi finals since then.
    in 2006, Argentina had Jose Peckerman, undoubtably one of the best coaches in the world (or so the commentators would have us believe), with an unbelievably talented argentine side, and they soon had all of us wowing. but a few bad subs against Germany, and he became a very bad coach.
    so now the question is what is the minimum maradona can do not to be a failure, another question is if Argentina do reach the semi finals, could it then be that Diego is a good coach, or that the argentine team is good. everyone seems to regard him as a terrible coach who would only lead argentina home very early.

  • Comment number 26.

    Argentina are certainly not reliant on one man anything but, they have a an abundance of strikers that can score for them. But as a team im not sure, messi is the distraction the fact he is even on the pitch will make teams wary he pulls defenders away creates spaces for the other strikers he doesnt have to score if he just distracts defenders he will have done his job.

  • Comment number 27.

    To Jonathan Stevenson. Why did you need a translator for the El Diego book? It's printed in English now. I have a copy that I am trying to get rid of. You're welcome to it. I use to like Maradona until I read the book. He refers to himself in the third person all the time and credits himself and only himself with winning the world cup with Argentina and Seria A with Napoli. Now admittedly he was the main force behind the victories but he was playing on a team and should acknowledge that.I think Argentina will either win the world cup outright or flop very badly. I don't think there is a middle ground. Also one way or another I think Maradona will quit after the world cup.

  • Comment number 28.

    @ 20 "Are there many people who have the world cup as both a player and a manager if anybody knows?"

    Someone above mentioned Der Kaiser. Also, Mario Zagallo won the World Cup for Brazil as a player in 58 and 62, and as manager in 70. He was also assistant to Carlos Alberto Pareira when Brazil lifted it in 94.

  • Comment number 29.

    The fact Milito and Aguero don't get in the side is quite worrying from the point of view of anyone argentinian. Be fair lads, lend us one of them.

  • Comment number 30.

    and by that i mean not argentinian

  • Comment number 31.

    If, I am to believe Messi has a very strong faith in his religion.. I would say that any pressure he have can be channelled in a constructive manner..

    I cannot see Messi seeking guidance mainly from Maradonna,. He will do as is requested by his international manager but with regards to him having the weight of expectation on his shoulders and him feeling it - I just don't buy that.

  • Comment number 32.

    I remember Maradonna once saying, with more than a hint of resentment, that Messi was harder to get on the phone that Barack Obama. There may indeed be trouble in paradise.

    I like to think, like Batistuta, that whatever 11 Maradonna puts out Argentina have a chance of winning any game. Talent like Tevez, Milito, Aguero and Messi are going to produce moments that can win you games.

    I wonder if Argentina win the World Cup whether people will consider it to be because of Maradonna, or in spite of his presence.

    At the moment I'm thinking it is the latter but he has at least 3 games to prove himself. I can't wait.

  • Comment number 33.

    Argentina are without a doubt the most fascinating prospect going in to the World Cup. You get the feeling they are capable of something a little bit special, but similarly they could be the tournament's big under-achievers.

    The fascination of it all is that no-one really knows how it will all come together on the biggest stage of all. I was in Argentina last month and sentiment to Lionel Messi was luke warm. There is definately resentment at his young move to Spain, but the truth is the Argentine people are hungry for glory and Messi, Maradona and Co. will live and die by their performances. I just can't wait to find out which Argentina turns up.

  • Comment number 34.

    I really cant see Argentina doing anything in this world cup they will qualify from there group as they have the easiest group but thats propably as far as they will get furthest for maradaonas men is quaters and that would be a good finish for them.

  • Comment number 35.

    Mr Maradona is a great motivator, which will most certainly work in his favour for such a short-term event as the World Cup, Then for Argentina to boast Messi(the best player on Earth by a country mile), never mind the likes of Aguero, Tevez, Mascherano, Di Maria, Higuan they can most certainly blow away every team (including Brazil & Spain), however with such big names and ego's the team spirit is the most likely and most important component of the team that will be damaged. Argentina are as strong as ever and have much to prove after their lacklustre performances in qualifying.

  • Comment number 36.

    Is the manager really that important at International level? Okay, if you have a truly awful manager you probably won't win, but I still think the importance of the position is exaggerated. He cannot make transfers or anything; his only jobs seem to be to motivate the players and find a winning formation/game-plan. As far as 'inspiring' the players goes, do they really need much encouragement to try to win the football's most prestigious competition? And with tactics, the team's natural shape tends to sort itself out in many cases. England are a good example - after 2 years of Capello, the team looks very similar to how it did under Sven. Finally, most WC and EC winning sides have had to go through at least one penalty shoot-out on the way to glory. How influential can the manager be in that situation?
    Your thoughts, please. (I know I'm oversimplifying things, but the general idea should be fairly obvious.)

  • Comment number 37.

    @ 36 - Even the biggest players need guidance and advice and all players look upto their manager's as sort of father-figures within football, theefore motivation is a great weapon for a manager at the World Cup esp international level where the pressure is much more intense. Also to have somebody as high-profile as Maradona helps to keep the emphasis off the team, have the media talked more about Maradona's antics lately or the performance of the team?

  • Comment number 38.

    Argentina won't win. Why? They've got TOO MUCH talent. Too many big egos.......too many guys wanting to be "da man"!! Maradona, Messi, Tevez, Higuain, Aguero, Milito............the team chemistry is all out of whack.

    They haven't been playing as a team and with that headcase Maradona in charge, they never will. He's crazier than all of them.

    People are getting duped by the "individual talent" mirage. It's all about THE TEAM, folks. The best team will win and Argentina don't have that. They're a bunch of talented misfits led my misfit #1,......"el Diego".

  • Comment number 39.

    37. Wheater_bix

    Thank you for responding, and you are certainly right about players looking up to their managers for guidance and even as father-figures. I do however feel that they are more likely to feel this way about their club managers than their international ones, who they only see comparatively rarely. Rooney, for instance, will be employing that which he has learned at club level from Sir Alex Ferguson more than anything Capello has taught the team.

    I must also reiterate that there would have to be something quite badly wrong for a player not to feel motivated to represent their country in a World Cup, whether they are being managed by Pele or by Andy Townsend or by me or you for that matter! Again, I make a significant distinction between league and cup competitions here, as playing a gruelling league season requires more encouragement than a month long cup contest.

    I agree about the importance of the manager taking the pressure off the players, especially as South American countries tend to have the following philosophy: If the team succeed, it is down to the players - if they fail, it is down to the manager. With Argentina and Maradona, this will certainly be what be what people think.

  • Comment number 40.

    To Post 38 thats a bit harsh to be fair to Argentina & Diego himself.

    Maybe I am a little biased as he is by far the greatest player I have ever witnessed in the game but he was asked to get his country to the world cup when they were clearly struggling & did as was asked.

    I dont buy into the argument that they are talented individuals but not a team, if you can provide 1 example of egotistical behaviour from either Messi, Aguero, Higuian or Milito I will eat my words but they all seem like team players to me.

    I have a feeling they could win it, they arent gung-ho like people would think, they will play a very flat back 4 & use Mascherano to screen the midfield position & then try to get the flair upfront to nick goals for them.

    I dont actually think there is an out & out attacking side in the world cup, Brazil certainly arent & neither are Spain, they play possession football & try to play through you.

    Argentina seem to have a number of injury free players with good form, Milito won the champions league along with Samuel, Aguero has won the Europa league & Messi has scored 45 goals in all compeitions.

    Compare that with Robinho's lack of success over here & Kaka's poor form over the last 2 years & also Spain's injury niggles including Xaxi, Iniesta, Fabregas & Torres and suddenly Argentina seem a decent bet.

  • Comment number 41.

    Put simply: Messi is by any measure, the best all-round and balanced player in modern day world football. He possesses the technical attributes of Best and Cruyff and the composure of Pele. Clearly, his seasons performances are enhanced by playing with the most talented team in Barcelona. I am a Chelsea fan incidentally. In stark contrast, Maradona was a great, but limited player, bazaar choice as national manager and disgraceful role model and cheat. Maradona's off-pitch ego will sadly overshadow Messi's on-field abilities.

  • Comment number 42.

    Put simply: Messi is by any measure, the best all-round and balanced player in modern day world football. He possesses the technical attributes of Best and Cruyff and the composure of Pele. Clearly, his seasons performances are enhanced by playing with the most talented team in Barcelona. I am a Chelsea fan incidentally. In stark contrast, Maradona was a great, but limited player, bazaar choice as national manager and disgraceful role model and cheat. Maradona's off-pitch ego will sadly overshadow Messi's on-field abilities.
    -------------
    I agree that by sensible measures Messi is the world's best current player. Maradona though, when fit, had less limits on his game than any other player there's ever been.

  • Comment number 43.

    Maradona is a clown and I am fully expecting the Argentine effort to fall apart after 2 or 3 games.
    When egos get in the way professionalism suffers.

  • Comment number 44.

    Quote from post 39 from SummersIron - I must also reiterate that there would have to be something quite badly wrong for a player not to feel motivated to represent their country in a World Cup, whether they are being managed by Pele or by Andy Townsend or by me or you for that matter! Again, I make a significant distinction between league and cup competitions here, as playing a gruelling league season requires more encouragement than a month long cup contest.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Players can quite easily lose hunger for the game from their obscene wages, but I must agree something must be wrong with players if they are not motivated for the world cup, however I believe every single argentine player in the world cup squad has the admiration and respect for maradonna that they could have for no other argentine managing their squad, they would always put that extra 10% in for Maradonna, therefore I feel managers can have a huge impact esp as Maradonna has had an impact on every footballer in the Argentine squad from a young age, look back to his heroics from 86, u tell me would the players discard that when they see Maradonna as their manager? if me or you or Andy Townsend were managing that squad would we get that extra effort out of the Argentine squad, would they have the same respect and admiration for us? Would they wanna try harder for us? Maradonna however is not the most tactical brilliant minded manager I have ever seen and this is where his downfall could occur. He persists with a 4-4-2, when a 4-3-3 built around Messi could be much more beneficial to the team not just Messi.

    A gruelling league and cup season is not as intense as the World Cup, players tend to play a lot more on adrenalin then endurance in the World Cup, also the pressure factor with the World Cup is where encouragement is required from managers, and who better to turn to then Maradonna who has been through every high to every low in World Cups

  • Comment number 45.

    post 40 - I agree argentina could go all the way however maradonna's tactical ability is limited, they can certainly blow any team away like I mentioned beforehand and who better to motivate them than Maradonna, they even created a religion after him in Argentina, that is how much he is revered, however his persistence with 4-4-2 will become their downfall, with the attacking options they have I cannot understand playing such a rigid system and restricting Messi's genius. If Argentina fail then messi will have to take a portion of the blame, afterall the talking is done on the pitch, where Messi will be, not Maradonna

  • Comment number 46.

    Maradona is, for me, undoubtedly the most talented player of all time

    I don't subscribe to the notion that he wants Messi to fail, in order to preseve his reputation as Argentina's greatest player. He is secure is his position in this respect - Messi left as a young kid and Argentines don't have the same affection for him because of it. Maradona is their God and always will be.

    Besides, if Maradona masterminds a World Cup victory his status will be lifted even higher - and he knows to have any chance of this Messi needs to shine.

    http://twoyellowcards.co.uk/

  • Comment number 47.

    I have to say I completely disagree with the consensus that for Leo Messi to be considered great he will have to win a World Cup. That may have been true in a bygone era but is certainly not true today. The World Cup has just become a normal cup competition in which the best players in the world usually don't turn up because they have burned themselves out playing for their clubs in the Champions League. The center of power has definately gravitated to the Champions League. That is where true greatness is now achieved - and by that reckoning Leo Messi has joined the pantheons of the great - as have add many others like Chirstiano, Eto, Ronaldinho and now Milito.
    How can anyone seriously countenance the fact that the World Cup is still what it was. As Jose Mourinho pointed out recently club teams are now much stronger than international ones - which was not previously the case.

  • Comment number 48.

    sirHellsBells is right about Maradona's tactics. He doesn't trust wing-backs and have settled on a flat back 4. All the flying wing-backs the other teams use will run into a wall when they play Argentina. When Veron gets the ball, he will send it right where the wing back should have been, Maxi Rodriguez and Di Maria will then exploit it to the full. As the centre backs move across to cover, Higuain and Messi will be free to score as they will.

  • Comment number 49.

    As far as Galacticos go, we have Rooney, Argentina have Messi, Tevez, Aguero can get there, and Maxi Rodriguez is regarded by some as in that league. I just don't think Maradona has the tactical experience to fit them all in.

  • Comment number 50.

    27. At 2:18pm on 08 Jun 2010, pmatson wrote:
    To Jonathan Stevenson. Why did you need a translator for the El Diego book? It's printed in English now. I have a copy that I am trying to get rid of. You're welcome to it.

    Brilliant! Mate, I think you'll find that he's referring to the person that actually translated the book so that you could read it.

  • Comment number 51.

    Argentina have the luxury to play poor, it only takes 1 moment of brilliance to change a game and they have at least FIVE players who can create that moment of brilliance to change the game on its head! Also to have Mascherano protecting your defence is certainly another luxury.

  • Comment number 52.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    It is impossible to fully define Maradona. He is coach for what he was as a player. For what he is post his playing days, he should be nowhere near the Argentine team. But he is the footy loving nation's unflinching choice. So a riddle in contrariness, an enigma. Aren't the Argentines expecting too much already? They must believe in miracles!

    I am sold on Brazil. Still, if there is one team capable of stopping them it is this madcap's Argentina. And if that comes to pass, Maradona will be uncontrollable for the rational world.

  • Comment number 55.


    Diego Maradona has been a world class footballer, a fantastic play maker and scorer of some of the finest and decisive goals in world football. As an attacking footballer he used to impose his rule on the opposition and his fellow squad members would supervise the proceedings. In Lionel Messi Argentina has a Diego-like creative footballer who looks set to carry forward the great Maradona tradition.

    Footballers who had careers as defenders or midfielders turn out to be coaches of the cautious type. Coaches who played as strikers bring in a far more different and positive approach in their coaching profession. As goal poachers they have tasted and enjoyed the applause.

    Keep watching Maradona in his technical area. His body language is that of a striker. In Leo Messi, Maradona has found a footballer who can do things in style. Best wishes to the Argentine team and their fans.


    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 57.

    I really don't understand how Argentina didn't go further last year. The talent in the team is phenomenal, and with Maradona as Manager, it seemed like destiny that they would win it. The provided great entertainment throughout the tournament, bu in their game against Germany it all went wrong.

  • Comment number 58.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 59.

    Argentina are a much duller side now that Diego has left them. Long live Maradona!

  • Comment number 60.

    Shame that Messi always seems to play better for Barca than for Argentina. Maradona didn't really manage to sort it out, and I'm not convinced the new boss has it sussed either - Argentina should be at the very top of the world game with Messi in the side, and yet they're currently slumping into the 'also-rans' category.

    http://www.downtotenmen.com

  • Comment number 61.

    Sorry but Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka are both better than Messi!

  • Comment number 62.

    "Keep watching Maradona in his technical area. His body language is that of a striker." - very true :) - was good to watch him getting so involved.

    Keano is a better manager though (sorry Argentina fans!)

  • Comment number 63.

    According to a poll on Soccer First, Messi was voted the best player in the world. I personally voted for Ronny (the portuguese one, not the fat one!) but Messi won hands down.

  • Comment number 64.

    Ashley Young has the potential to be as good as Messi when he moves to one of the big teams. when he is afforded the luxury of just concentrating o his forward game (rather than tracking back and making tackles), I think he has the ability and tricksiness to become of the World Best.

  • Comment number 65.

    Lol @ 64. 'Ashley Young can be better than Messi'

    Even if he does go to Liverpool or Man united, he still wouldn't be anywhere near as good as Messi - Villa would win the league if they had Messi in their side, whereas Villa finished in like 14th with Young. dream on.

 

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