Maradona: Messi has to continue with Argentina

The Argentine legend criticized the Barcelona playmaker during the Copa America Centenario but now hopes to help him fight against the Argentina FA.

The day after Lionel Messi announced plans to leave the Argentina national team, Argentine great Diego Maradona said the Barcelona No. 10 must continue to represent his country.

After losing to Chile on penalty kicks for a second consecutive tournament, Messi told reporters that he believes his time with the national team has come to an end. Messi expressed his frustration after losing four finals, Sunday's Copa America Centenario decider, the 2007 and 2015 Copa America finals and the final of the 2014 World Cup. But earlier in the tournament, the 28-year-old publicly voiced his anger with the Argentine Football Association.

Maradona also has butted heads with AFA officials and said Messi's departure is covering up deficiencies in the setup.

"Messi has to continue with the national team. He has to continue!" Maradona told La Nacion. "He has to continue because he has more in him, because he's going to arrive in Russia in form to be champion of the world. He has to rely more on the guys who can help him to take the team forward and less on those who say he has to go. Put aside those who won't even let him cry! They don't play and they don't let him mourn. Because those who say that he has to go do it so we might not see the disaster that is Argentine football."

The support for Messi is something of a change of heart for Maradona, who won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina and was part of the runner-up squad in 1990. Prior to the final, Maradona told an Argentine television outlet, "If we don’t win, they shouldn’t come back." Earlier in the tournament, Maradona said Messi "is a great person, but he has no personality. He doesn't have the personality to be a leader."