5 most controversial quotes on Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi is arguably the greatest footballer of all time. There's no way to beat around the bush when we say so, and his 2021 Copa America victory only pushed that envelope further along the table.

Since making his senior debut for Barcelona in 2004, Messi has scored an astonishing 748 goals in 929 matches for club and country. In this time, he has also provided 358 assists, which is simply astonishing. Messi has consistently been an all-round forward in the truest sense possible. Not only has he churned out goal after goal, he has also created numerous scoring chances for teammates and often drops deep to help in transition plays.

Messi also has a good record in big games and has proved time and time again that forwards can have good games without scoring a goal. However, this does not mean he has not faced criticism. Messi has been the subject of numerous controversial quotes from critics, pundits and footballers over his 17-year long career.

In this article, we look at five such controversial and critical quotes on Lionel Messi.

#5 "Lionel Messi should go to Real Madrid and prove everything there like Cristiano Ronaldo"

Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015
Lionel Messi (left) and Cristiano Ronaldo at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2015

It's very difficult to find the exact basis for this quote and that's what makes it a weird one. Former Boca Juniors legend Hugo Gatti weighed in on the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi debate with this infamous quote back in 2020. He said:

"It seems as if I am anti-Argentine, but until Messi plays in the big games, he will continue to be a player of home games. He has to have balls to go to Real Madrid and prove everything there like Cristiano [Ronaldo]. Otherwise, he will be just one more [player]."

Barcelona are already heavyweights in Spain. Had Gatti suggested a transfer to the Premier League or Serie A, both leagues where Ronaldo excelled, it would have made sense. To suggest Messi should move to the Blaugrana's eternal rivals, who are in the same league, as a means to prove himself did not really seem to carry much valence.

#4 "Ronaldo has some of Maradona's passion, Messi has none"

Jorge Jesus made some interesting claims on Lionel Messi
Jorge Jesus made some interesting claims on Lionel Messi

In the wake of Diego Maradona's passing in 2020, the GOAT debate seemed to fuel even more, as many older football viewers and experts continued to believe that either Maradona or Pele was the greatest player to step on the pitch.

Current Benfica manager Jorge Jesus was one of those who believed the mercurial Argentine was the best player he ever saw. He also seemed to prefer Cristiano Ronaldo over Lionel Messi for one fundamental reason:

"Today, among the best two in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo has a little of that (what Maradona had). Messi has nothing. He doesn't have any passion."

Jesus also added:

"Messi is a great player. But we're talking about life and feelings, having passion for the game and for football. I think Maradona was above anyone in that regard."

Those who observed the recent Copa America will know that Messi has tremendous passion for the game. In fact, he played on with a bleeding foot in their quarterfinal against Ecuador before crying at the final whistle when Argentina's victory was confirmed.

#3 "Messi is Messi when he plays for Barcelona and he's another Messi with Argentina"

Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi (right)
Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi (right)

Messi's biggest hurdle since making his international debut in 2005 has been the weight of expectation. A player who has virtually won it all with Barcelona, his record with Argentina has not been as prolific. Before his Copa America triumph earlier this year, Messi had only managed one U-20 World Cup and an Olympic Gold with the national team.

A major reason for this has been related to Messi's leadership style. He is often seen as a player who prefers to let the ball do the talking on the pitch. Not many view him as a vocal leader. This is a quality that many attribute to the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Maradona in the GOAT debate.

The late Maradona himself has often criticized Messi for the difference in performances with Barcelona and Argentina. Three years ago, Messi decided to take a brief sabbatical from national duties as Argentina crashed out to France in the Round of 16 at the 2018 World Cup. Maradona was then quoted as saying:

"We shouldn't deify Messi any longer. He's Messi when he plays for Barcelona. Messi is Messi when he wears that shirt and he's another Messi with Argentina."

He also went on to criticize Messi's leadership by stating:

"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."

#2 "Messi only has one skill"

Brazilian legend Pele
Brazilian legend Pele

Another controversial quote from 2018, this one came from football legend Pele. The former Brazilian international was questioned whether he agreed with people who opine that Messi was the greatest player of all time. Pele responded by saying:

"How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn't head the ball well?"

Pele's next statement clarified that he was comparing Messi to himself. He said:

"How can you compare? To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers."

#1 Decision to award Messi the Golden Ball at WC 2014 was "incorrect"

Sepp Blatter
Sepp Blatter

Back in 2014, Messi led Argentina to the World Cup final. Despite having numerous chances to score the opening goal, Albiceleste crumbled under pressure against Germany. The Germans eventually won the match thanks to an extra-time winner from Mario Gotze.

Messi looked dejected as he won the Golden Ball, awarded to the best player at the tournament. He scored four goals and provided one assist during the course of the tournament as Argentina mounted an unexpected run to the final. Messi reportedly kept muttering "the best, but not the champion," as he received the individual award. This was revealed by former FIFA president Sepp Blatter in 2016.

However, a more controversial quote from Blatter arrived a few months after the 2014 World Cup final. The Swiss claimed:

"I think the decision (to award Messi the Golden Ball) was incorrect. I was surprised when I received the committee's decision. They told me they had only looked at 10 of the players who took part in the final."

Despite failing to score in the knockout rounds, Messi was instrumental in Argentina's run to the finals. He scored four of Argentina's six group-stage goals, including a 90th-minute winner over Iran. Messi also assisted Angel di Maria's extra-time winner against Switzerland in the Round of 16.

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