In an interview with ESPN this past Wednesday, former Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron spoke to them about what he thinks of present Argentina captain Lionel Messi. The central midfielder is well known across the world for his time at Inter Milan and Manchester United and had the rare experience of playing with Diego Maradona and Messi.
Veron seemed unequivocally in awe of the legend that is Maradona saying, “To play with Diego is like touching the sky with your hands.”
Messi is incredible, says Veron
However, he was more pragmatic about his praise of Messi although he saw no reason to direct any criticism towards him either.
Having played alongside Messi during the FIFA World Cup 2010 and against him during the final of the FIFA Club World Cup in 2009, Veron knows a little about the five-time Ballon D’Or winner.
Messi scored against Veron’s club, Estudiantes and he recalled how he felt then, “When he scored against us I wanted to kill him, but he was incredible.”
The former United player also shared an amusing incident about how he tried to get Messi to learn the Argentinian national anthem.
Veron speaks about Messi’s reluctance to sing the anthem
Among the many criticisms directed at Messi aside from his performances with Argentina, is his refusal to sing the national anthem before matches which ruffled a few feathers in Argentina. The singing of the anthem is an emotional experience for most of his countrymen and his reluctance to join in was often seen as a lack of respect.
Speaking as someone who refrained from singing the anthem himself, Veron explained, “I didn’t sing it on purpose. I didn’t change anything and the crap didn’t get to me. To me, like everyone, [pride] comes to you when [the anthem] plays, but everyone does it their own way. The Pumas (Argentina’s rugby side) cry during the anthem, but we don’t.”
Back when this criticism first gained popularity, Veron sent a message to Messi as a joke, “I sent him the verses!,” he said.
Messi himself has addressed these issues. In 2015, he spoke to TyC Sports, an Argentine television sports channel and said, "I get annoyed by the people who attack you without thinking. I won't sing the national anthem on purpose. I don't need to sing it to feel it. It reaches me, every person feels it in their own way. The Pumas cry, they feel it differently, and that's ok.”
Since then, Argentina has lost yet another Copa America to Chile and Lionel Messi announced his retirement from international duty only to return a few weeks later because of "love for my country".Published 30 Sep 2016, 17:38 IST