Diego Maradona pleads with Lionel Messi not to leave the national team

Jorge Valdano stated that he doesn't think there is anyone in Argentina who could convince him to stay

Diego Maradona pleads with Lionel Messi not to leave the national team

Image: Julio Cortez / AP/Press Association Images

After his decision to retire from international football, a number of figures in the game in Argentina have pleaded with Lionel Messi to change his mind. 

Chief among them is Maradona, whose rather long shadow may have been one of the reasons that the shirt of la albiceleste weighed so heavily on his shoulders in his time with the team. 

Speaking to Argentine paper La Nación, Maradona said that "he has to lean more on the lads who can help him take the team forward and less on those who say he should leave."

He also posted on Facebook to say that "Lio has to stay with the national team because he has a lot to give and can make it to [World Cup 2018] Russia with a chance of becoming a world champion. I would like to speak with him, because they have abandoned him, and I don't want to abandon him." 

Speaking on Cadena SER's 'El Larguero' show, World Cup winner Jorge Valdano also weighed in on the debate, saying "Argentina are still focusing on Messi and blaming him for all their problems; we demand from him what we should be demanding from the whole team. Messi has ended up being totally burned out, the pressure on him is excessive."

Valdano added that while many are speculating he will return, he sees it as being a very complicated issue: "My feeling is he finished the game [Copa America final] with an immense weight on his shoulders and he got rid of it with these comments to the press. He liberated himself from this weight by saying goodbye."

"Messi could have chosen between playing for Spain or playing for Argentina, but he never had any doubts. I don't know who can convince Messi to stay with the national team. There is not one person who has that credibility or influence."

Even Argentine president Mauricio Macri has tweeted to ask that Messi stays with the team, stating that he hopes to still feel the joy of watching the best player in the world for many more years to come.

Meanwhile, Messi's announcement is a further headache for an already troubled Argentine Football Association; they have been almost constantly in the headlines since the loss in the Copa America final with rumours of manager Tata Martino resigning and Luis Segura, interim president, also being forced to deny that he had tendered his resignation

While there is an awful lot on their plate, there's no doubt that Messi's retirement is the issue they need to address first and foremost, but they may not be in any fit state to do so at the moment. 

Via Marca, The Guardian