Lionel Messi has been told that he will “never reach Diego Maradona’s level” by Hector Enrique, a member of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning squad.

Diego Simeone has hit out at critics of Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi, particularly from his home country of Argentina.

Messi, despite winning everything there is to win with Barcelona over the course of his legendary career, has come up short on the international scene.

Argentina lost out in the final of the 2014 World Cup to Germany before falling in the finals of back-to-back Copas America to Chile.

The failure to claim major honours for his country has brought about a raft of criticism of Messi in his native land, but Atletico Madrid boss Simeone, who himself had over 100 caps for Argentina, doesn’t believe the negative thoughts are warranted.

“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.”

And, while the Atletico boss believes everyone is entitled to their opinion, he claims that football wouldn’t be the same without the Barcelona star.

“I respect everything, everyone has an opinion,” Simeone said. “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.”

Simeone was coy on what he felt needed to be done to bring success back to Argentina, claiming that managing at the international level bears little resemblance to coaching a club.

“It’s very difficult to talk from the perspective that I’m not in that place,” he said. “If I ask that question to a fan, what would he do in that situation, he would not know what to do if one day he is a coach.

“Being a team manager is one thing, being a national manager is another, there is a whole country behind it with a ruthless football and passion culture.

“It generates another environment that has nothing to do with being a club manager.”

Messi, who returned to play for Argentina in March for the first time since the 2018 World Cup, will get another chance to bring a trophy to Argentina this summer in the Copa America.

But his focus until then will be on claiming more glory for Barcelona, who are nine points clear of Simeone’s Atletico in La Liga and have secured a place in the Champions League semi-finals against Liverpool.

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