Lionel Messi being criticised for his failure to deliver a major title for Argentina is unfair, says Diego Simeone.
Messi could not inspire Argentina to success at last year’s World Cup, having to drag his side through the group stage before exiting to eventual winners France in the round of 16.
The Argentina captain then took a sabbatical from international duty but was criticised for missing a friendly against Morocco after making his return in a defeat to Venezuela last month.
Messi confirmed a pelvic injury meant he had to pull out of the squad and has said his son asked him: “Dad, why do they crucify you in Argentina?”
But Messi will again shoulder his country’s burden of expectation at the Copa America this year and Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone feels the forward is under too much pressure.
“I respect everything, everyone has an opinion. Messi was close to winning the World Cup [in 2014], he did not win it unfortunately,” Simeone told Goal.
“Some people criticise him constantly, but Messi is extraordinary, how many Ballons d’Or has he won, how many goals has he made? How many times has he managed to give Barcelona a certain way to play? Without him, it would not be the same.
“The criticism towards Messi is not fair, not at all, especially in Argentina, they all compare Messi – why in Barcelona yes and in Argentina not?
“It is not difficult to know why, it’s easy, in Barcelona there are some players and a team that supports him and in Argentina there are no such players, as happens to Cristsiano Ronaldo in Portugal, because Portugal are not Juventus or Real Madrid.
“The teams strengthen the great player, it’s easy.”
Argentina are rebuilding for the Copa America under Lionel Scaloni, who replaced Jorge Sampaoli after the World Cup, with Messi back in the fold after a nine-month absence.
But Simeone is unsure which direction the national team should take after a series of major disappointments, losing the 2014 World Cup final and in two Copa America finals despite Messi’s presence.
“It’s very difficult to talk from the perspective that I’m not in that place. If I ask that question to a fan, what would he do in that situation, he would not know what to do if one day he is a coach,” former Argentina midfielder Simeone added.
“Being a team manager is one thing, being a national manager is another, there is a whole country behind [you] with a ruthless football and passion culture. It generates another environment that has nothing to do with being a club manager.
“What I would like to do is more than having a team, having a quality or another, is to have the peace to be able to sustain everything that surrounds the manager and it is not seen, that it is not only to choose players, to create a system or to make a tactic.
“The one that assumes that role must be able to take that role and that is the most difficult part of football.”
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