Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino defended forward Lionel Messi after Diego Maradona claimed the star lacked the character to be a leader.
At a promotional event prior to the European Championships on Thursday in Paris, Maradona told Pele that Messi was “a great person, but he has no personality. He doesn’t have the personality to be a leader.”
Martino, who is in Chicago with the Albiceleste as they prepare for today’s Copa America Centenario match against Panama, would not be drawn into the discussion.
Maradona later clarified his comments at Pele’s urging to say that he was referring to how players of previous generations “led on the field.”
“I don’t have anything to say,” he told reporters.
Martino explained that Messi’s leadership style was very different from that of his teammate Javier Mascherano.
“Mascherano’s impact as a leader is more important inside the squad, and Messi’s leadership is more important in the pitch,” said Martino.
“Teams always have natural leaders on the pitch and natural leaders in footballing terms.”
Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, has frequently been compared with Maradona throughout his career and often criticised because the Albiceleste have not won any major titles with the Barcelona star leading their attack.
Maradona led the Argentines to World Cup glory in 1986. Messi, meanwhile, missed out on the World Cup in 2014 with a disappointing loss to Germany in the final.
Messi missed the opener of the Copa America for his country earlier this week but is fit to face Panama on Friday as he recovers from a back injury.
Over a 21-year club career, Maradona won league titles with Boca Juniors in Argentina and Serie A giants Napoli. Messi has won seven La Liga crowns,
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