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Highlights on Off The Ball


Explaining what made Messi's relationship with Argentina so complicated

Jonathan Wilson joins The Football Show to explain how Lionel Messi became a beloved son of Argentina.

Jonathan Wilson joined The Football Show to discuss Lionel Messi, Maradona and Argentina.

Lionel Messi won the World Cup. His legacy is now secure.

Messi will go down as the best or one of the best players to ever play football. He won literally everything there is to win in the sport. But even while he's been a superstar for so long, Messi's relationship with his home country has always been complicated.

Maradona is the favourite son of Argentina, so there were always debates about who was better between him and Messi.

Once Maradona passed away two years ago, those debates became less of a factor. And now that Messi has won the World Cup in a somewhat similar fashion, he can be appreciated on the same level as Maradona. But it's still baffling that a country could struggle to embrace Messi.

Plenty of teams have had more than one great player in their history and they haven't had to compare them. Messi is so good that you would have to love him if he was on your team, but that's part of the issue.

Joe Molloy asked Jonathan Wilson how any fanbase could not be in love with Messi when he was such a glorious footballer.

"Well he wasn't glorious for them," Wilson rebuked.

"The comparison between them is very, very difficult. Because Messi for pretty much every season over the last 15 years, he has been brilliant. Maradona had maybe three or four really great seasons. And yet in some ways that makes him a more appealing character. The sense that his genius wasn't easily won. He was constantly wrestling with it.

"Whereas Messi just seems to be a brilliant footballer who is brilliant consistently all the time."

Messi was not only distant from Argentina from a young age, he joined Barcelona before he was a teenager, but his personality made him distant too. Maradona came from poverty and wore his emotions on his sleeve. Messi didn't come from riches but his father was the manager of a factory and he's often a seemingly emotionless figure.

His reserved nature and his relationship with Barcelona made it easier for fans to disassociate from him. But that changed six years ago.

"There's that frustration up until about 2016. To say Argentina hated him as some people have is way over the top. There was some skepticism, there was a sense of 'Does he really care about us or is he all about Barcelona winning Champions Leagues?'

"Does he really feel truly Argentine? There was all these absurd sort of analyses.

"He speaks with an Argentinian accent, his wife is Argentinian, his favourite food is Argentinian, his favourite music is Argentinian, his favourite films are Argentinian. He is very much Argentinian. And after that 2016 Copa America final when they've suffered that third defeat in a final...his obvious devastation after that is what persuades people in Argentina that he is one of us.

"Really since 2016 it's been a question of everybody pulling together to give Messi his title."

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Argentina Lionel Messi World Cup