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Diego Simeone defends Lionel Messi from unfair Argentina criticism

Argentina v Venezuela - International Friendly
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Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone believes the criticism aimed at his compatriot Lionel Messi for his failure to win a major title with Argentina is wrong.

Despite a glorious trophy-laden career at Barcelona, Messi has often come up short for Argentina after suffering three Copa America final defeats and losing the 2014 World Cup final.

Upon losing the 2016 Copa America final, Messi had actually retired from international football before being convinced to retract his decision in favour of giving things another go for the national team.

But the 31-year-old’s wait for a major title with Argentina continues after being knocked out of the last-16 stage of last summer’s World Cup by eventual champions France.

This had provoked renewed fears over Messi’s international future before the Barcelona star made his comeback in March following a nine-month break.

However, Messi’s return ended in a 3-1 friendly defeat to Venezuela and he sustained a pelvic injury in the process. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner was later forced to pull out of the squad.

Regardless, though, Messi’s failure to lead Argentina to glory has often seen him criticised in his own home country in light of everything he achieves at Barcelona.

“The criticism towards Messi is not fair, not at all, especially in Argentina,” Simeone told Goal.

“They all ask with Messi ‘why in Barcelona yes and in Argentina no?’ It is not difficult to know why, it’s easy.

“In Barcelona, there are some players and a team that supports him and in Argentina there are no such players, as happens to Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal, because Portugal is not Juventus or Real Madrid.

“The teams strengthen the great player, it’s easy.”

He added: “I respect everything, everyone has an opinion. Messi was close to winning the World Cup, he did not win it, unfortunately.

“Some people criticise him constantly, but Messi is extraordinary.

“How many Ballons d’Or has he won, how many goals has he made? How many times has he managed to give Barcelona a certain way to play?

“Without him, it would not be the same.”

Messi has managed a record 65 goals and 41 assists in 129 appearances for Argentina. He will be expected to lead La Albiceleste’s pursuit of Copa America glory in Brazil this summer.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 22: Lionel Messi of Argentina attaches the captain´s armband prior to start the International Friendly match between Argentina and Venezuela at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano on March 22, 2019 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)