Argentina legend Diego Maradona has questioned Lionel Messi's brief period in international retirement following his unsuccessful Copa America campaign with his national team this summer, saying that the move could have been an elaborate PR stunt.
Messi's side made it to the final of the competition but lost to Chile on penalties for the second summer in a row, the Barcelona star missing his spot-kick first up to get Argentina off to the worst possible start.
Quite an accusation from one Argentina legend against another...https://t.co/5prurOd7zi— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) August 25, 2016
The 29-year-old retired from playing for the national team in the immediate aftermath of the result, but reversed that decision earlier this month - leading to Maradona's comments to TyC Sports.
Speaking in criticism of the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has failed to score in a World Cup final defeat and two Copa America final losses in the last three summers, Maradona said: "[Messi] escaped the criticism but the Argentines suffered. Maybe his retirement was staged to make us forget about the three final losses."
When announcing his decision to return to the national team fold, Messi had said: “I see there are many problems in Argentinian football and I don’t intend to create another one. I don’t want to cause any damage, I’ve always tried to do just the opposite, to help all that I can.
“We need to fix many things in Argentinian football, but I prefer to do this from inside and not criticise from outside.”
He added: “Many things went through my head the day of the last final and I seriously thought of leaving, but I love this country and this shirt too much. I’m grateful to all the people who wanted me to continue playing with Argentina, hopefully we can give them something to cheer about soon.”
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