Diego Maradona has made, perhaps, his boldest claim yet in taking some of the credit for Lionel Messi’s development into one of the world’s best free-kick takers.
Maradona coached a young Messi during his time in charge of Argentina between 2008 and 2010. Together, they reached the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals before the 58-year-old left the national team.
Although Messi’s time under Maradona wasn’t a prolific one as the Barcelona star only scored three goals in 16 appearances. However, he did make five assists, with four those coming in the World Cup itself.
Since then, though, the 32-year-old has risen to greatness with five Ballon d’Ors among a host individual awards he’s won.
Messi has also become La Albiceleste’s all-time record scorer on 68 goals with a further 44 assists in 136 appearances. However, the wait for international silverware continues following another failed Copa America campaign in the summer.
Regardless, Messi is an undisputed all-time great in a similar manner to Maradona himself for his goalscoring prowess and dribbling ability.
The Argentina captain’s brilliant free-kick against Liverpool in April even won him the UEFA Goal of the Season award.
When it comes to the art of taking a free-kick, however, Maradona believes Messi benefited from his simple tutelage.
Speaking during his official presentation as the new Gimnasia de La Plata coach, Maradona said: “I coached the best, Messi, and nobody can tell me otherwise, because he was able to skip past up to five players – a phenomenon.
“He had an issue with free-kicks. When we finished every training session, we kept Leo behind so he could practice, and he started to hit the post.
“I didn’t teach him how to take a free-kick, then he asked me how I was able to score.
“I said, ‘you just have to hit it in the middle. They aren’t going to give me an Oscar to teach you this’.
“And he replied, ‘but I hit it in the middle and the ball goes this way or that way’ and I told him, ‘don’t worry, you’re going to make it’. Now he just can’t miss.”
The 1986 World Cup winner, meanwhile, will have his work cut out at Gimnasia this season, with the club bottom of the Argentinian Superliga.