Maradona: Messi comments not meant as criticism

Messi responded to the criticism by coming off the bench and scoring a hat-trick in his side's 5-0 win over Panama at the Copa America Centenario on Friday.

LionelMessi - Cropped

Messi scored a hat-trick in his side's 5-0 win over Panama on Friday.

Argentina great Diego Maradona stood by his questioning of Lionel Messi, but insists it was not meant as a criticism. Maradona was caught telling Pele that national team captain Messi had "no personality" and lacked the character to be a leader. Messi responded to the criticism by coming off the bench and scoring a hat-trick in his side's 5-0 win over Panama at the Copa America Centenario on Friday.

Despite that, the 1986 World Cup winner said he still felt the same – but it was no criticism of Messi. "I still think the same thing I told Pele," Maradona told Diario Popular. "But I do not want it to look like a criticism. It is not so."The boy [Messi] they want as a leader and leaders are made alone."

Maradona believes the captaincy could be weighing Messi down, saying: "If you demand Leo plays with his right [leg], he will play poorly. You have to let him play." Argentina have booked their spot in the Copa America Centenario quarter-finals and face Bolivia on Tuesday.

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