Messi fails to match Maradona success in Argentina shirt
By Rex Gowar
(Reuters) - They were two small Argentina players with the same enormous challenge -- to meet the expectations of a soccer-mad country.
Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi have both proved themselves to be skilful giants on the world soccer stage despite their diminutive frames of 1.65 and 1.70 metres respectively.
But, while Maradona reached the heights by lifting the World Cup, Messi's only major international honor has been Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, even though at club level he has won four Champions Leagues with Spanish greats Barcelona.
Argentina's failure to beat Chile in the final of the Copa America Centenario in the United States, a fourth lost final with the national team for Messi, proved too much for the little magician and he chose to quit international football on Sunday.
“The pressure (Messi) got from fans and media was and is very big. ‘Messi must continue with the Maradona legacy’ is the message,” sports medicine specialist Norberto Debbag said.
“The fans expect him to be leader and football star at the same time but it appears he’s not prepared for the social pressure the national team demands,” he told the Argentine website www.infobae.com.
Maradona, who had so much natural skill that he would often juggle the ball during the team's warm-up with his bootlaces still undone, was always going to be a hard act to follow in an Argentina shirt.
He had to be pulled out of a cesspit he fell into as a two-year-old, fought tooth-and-nail for everything he achieved and, with his immense footballing talent, led Argentina to their second World Cup triumph in 1986 in Mexico. Continued...