Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona has said that Lionel Messi is not a good leader, accusing the Barcelona and Argentina star of “going to the bathroom 20 times before a game”.

Maradona, who led Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986 and along with Brazil’s Pele, is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time, claims Messi is one player at his club Barcelona and a different one with Argentina.

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“We shouldn’t deify Messi any longer,” Maradona said in an interview with Fox Sports. “He’s Messi when he plays for Barcelona. Messi is Messi when he wears that shirt and he’s another Messi with Argentina.”

“He’s a great player but he’s not a leader. It’s useless trying to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toilet 20 times before a game.”

Maradona is believed to be referring to Messi’s extreme nerves before games that have seen him vomit ahead of some important matches.

The 31-year-old Messi has claimed every possible honour with Barcelona and has won the Fifa World Player of the Year award five times.

However, he has sometimes struggled to reproduce the same scintillating form when wearing the blue and white shirt of Argentina.

Messi has been on the losing side in all four of his finals with Argentina, three in the Copa America and at the 2014 World Cup and has not scored in four World Cup knockout stages.

After another disappointing tournament in Russia this year, where Argentina failed to get past the last 16, Messi opted to take a sabbatical from international football.

Maradona, who recently took over as coach of Mexican second-tier side Dorados, says Messi’s break was a sensible one.

“I wouldn’t call him up right now, but never say never. We have to take the pressure off him,” he said.

Argentina beat Iraq 4-0 on Thursday with a new-look side, taking their unbeaten run since Russia to three games but they face a sterner test on Tuesday when they face Brazil in Saudi Arabia.