Argentine soccer hero explains why Leo Messi is underappreciated in his home country

Robert Cianflone/Getty ImagesLionel Messi playing for Argentina.
  • A former World Cup winner for Argentina shed some light on why Lionel Messi is not revered in his home country the way he is everywhere else.
  • He also criticised Messi’s managers for failing to build the right team around him during his international career.

If there is one part of the soccer-viewing world where the greatness of Lionel Messi is not appreciated, it is, ironically enough, his home country of Argentina.

Well, at a recent panel of former World Cup soccer players put together by ESPN, the network’s media personality Sebastian Salazar had an opportunity to ask former World Cup winner with Argentina Mario Kempes about this odd dynamic between Messi and his native country.

Translating for Kempes, Salazar said, “Well first, he was raised from a soccer standpoint in Spain,” referring to the fact that Messi left Argentina at 12-years-old to join Barcelona’s famed youth academy, La Masia. “[Kempes] says also that there’s a tendency in Argentina to detract, to kind of take down the best that they have.”

Kempes also pointed out that the 1986 World Cup-winning Argentina team was still revered in Argentina. That team was famously led by Diego Maradona, one of the few players in the history of the game who could be reasonably said to be Messi’s equal on the soccer pitch.

Of course, it does not help Messi’s reputation in his home country that he has never won a major international trophy, and Kempes was critical of past Argentina managers for letting Messi down in that regard.

“[Kempes is] not sure if they have been able to surround Messi with the appropriate players, the appropriate formation, to get things done . . . they’re all friends off the field, but when you watch them play on the field, they look like they don’t know each other,” Salazar said.

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