Club and national figures alike are leaping to the defence of the under-fire Lionel Messi, ahead of the FIFA World Cup.
Messi has come under scrutiny after Barcelona endured a tough season which only spawned them the Spanish Supercopa, and the Argentine attacker is set to feel the pressure in Brazil.
Cesar Luis Menotti, who coached Argentina to World Cup glory in 1978, said Messi will feel more comfortable in the national set-up rather than his club surroundings at Camp Nou.
“I think Messi is going to come right back to the source, to the neighbourhood with his family and get away from the maelstrom,” Menotti told Sports.
“In Barcelona there is a lot of pressure and I think this has made him suffer.
“He needs to depart that climate and return to his natural place with his family, be with his friends and start training with the national team.
“It’s the logical way for recovery. I think he’ll go to the World Cup very well.
“Coming to Rosario and training with the team before travelling changes everything.
“Already it’s a new world, where he is well-liked and highly respected.”
Menotti also refuted the suggestion Messi was not playing whole-heartedly in their final La Liga game, which saw them draw 1-1 with Atletico Madrid to hand the latter a ground-breaking title.
“He looked sad on the field,” Menotti said.
“But he wasn’t saving himself.
“When a footballer enters the pitch for the final League game he wants to be the best and win.
“It’s an emotional thing.”
Messi’s team-mate Neymar told Globo that the three-time Ballon d’Or winner’s form was not the reason behind Barca’s lacklustre season.
“Everyone sees the failure of a way. In my opinion, Messi is the best player I’ve ever seen,” Neymar said.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. If I say something, I will defend it to the death. He was our solution, never our problem.”
Messi’s national team-mate Sergio Aguero said the 26-year-old was imperative in helping Argentina qualify for Brazil.
“We have Lionel Messi, the best footballer on earth, in our side,” Aguero said.
“He led us to the top of the list in qualifiers from the most difficult zone (CONMEBOL) with matches to spare.”