Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Don’t compare Argentina with Barca: Messi

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BUENOS AIRES: It is a mistake to compare Argentina with Barcelona as the Spanish club have been working as a unit for a lot longer, Lionel Messi said on Thursday.

Argentina have been pilloried by the media after drawing their opening two Copa America games before crushing Costa Rica 3-0 in their final group match, thanks largely to an inspired Messi performance.

They face Uruguay in the quarterfinals on Saturday. While Messi has been largely spared the criticism, his commitment to the Argentine set-up has been questioned in the past. Some pundits have even suggested he might walk away from the national side and concentrate on club soccer at Barcelona.

“I’ve never been bothered by what they say in the press and I never will be,” Messi said. “I don’t think anyone likes it when they’re whistled and insulted. We’re the first ones who want to do things well.

“It’s a mistake to compare this team to Barcelona,” he added. “We’ve all been working together at Barcelona for a long time.

“In the national team we’re trying to do something similar, keeping hold of the ball, dictating the rhythm of the game, but you can’t compare the two teams, either as a group or in terms of individuals.”

Argentina are hoping Messi can lead them to their first major success since their last Copa America triumph in Ecuador in 1993.

“Argentina need a trophy,” he said. “It’s a long time since we’ve won one.”

‘I will always play for Argentina’

Lionel Messi reiterated that he does not care what the Argentine press writes about him and will not stop representing Argentina.

Despite fierce criticism from the fans and media for his below-par performance in the Copa America, Messi said he is not considering retiring from international football.

Messi said comments had an impact on the team.

“We suffered a lot with the criticism, although we know we were not doing things right, but at the same time they helped us, because they made us stronger as a group. Although I get criticised, I will always come to the national team. I come because I always want to play and I will not change because of what the press say,” said Messi during a press conference.

Messi said he is not bothered by the media criticisms but the reaction of the fans do matter.

“I have never cared about what the press say and I will not start now. The only thing I care about is what the fans say… . I come to the national team because I feel it it is part of me, and I try to stay distant from all distractions. This is the first time I have been through something like this with the media, but I am not going to change.”

Earlier Thursday, Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine Football Association (AFA), suggested Messi could stop playing for Argentina if fans and the media don’t stop their criticism.

“The solution would be for Messi to say: ‘I will not come any more, I will stay in Spain’. What everyone acknowledges is that the Argentines want to put him down. Messi was born in Rosario, he lived and played there, he had growth problems. He followed his path, found a place – Barcelona – and they took care of him as if he was born there,” Grondona was quoted as saying by Radio Cooperativa.

“And despite this, he said no to Spain because he wanted to play for Argentina. We have to reflect on this,” he added. (Agencies)

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