Facing fresh criticism for his withdrawal from Argentina’s friendly in Morocco on Tuesday, Lionel Messi candidly discussed his detractors in an interview with an Argentinian radio station.
Barcelona’s celestial frontman ended a self-imposed exile from the national team by returning to the fold for last week’s friendly against Venezuela in Madrid. Unsurprisingly, appreciation of his involvement in the 3-1 defeat was short-lived when he pulled out of the next fixture.
“I wanted to distance myself from the team, let time go by and cool myself. It was painful to end the cycle this way,” he told Club 94.7 on Friday as he explained his decision to step away from Argentina after the 2018 World Cup, according to Almudena Calatrava of the Associated Press.
“Many people said I should not return (to the national team),” he added. “Family, friends. My six-year-old (asked me) ‘Why do they kill you in Argentina, daddy?'”
Messi warned his critics in Argentina that they “will have to stand me a little longer” as he remains focused on winning a major honor for his country. He described reaching a World Cup final and showpieces in the Copa America as “extraordinary” achievements.
“I’m used to what they say about me, they are always making things up about me. Nothing surprises me,” he continued, as translated by ESPN FC’s Sam Marsden. “There are a lot of lies being told and it makes me angry because people believe what they say.
“Anybody can say anything, people buy into it and then I’m the bad guy.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Messi named Cristiano Ronaldo alongside Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Eden Hazard, Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero, and himself as the best players in the world. Discussing Ronaldo, he admitted that “it annoyed me seeing him win so many trophies.”
The 31-year-old refused to commit to concluding his career in Argentinian club football: “I would love to end my career at Newell’s (Old Boys) but it’s not easy. Sincerely, I don’t know.”
Messi is included in Ernesto Valverde’s roster for Saturday’s brawl with city rivals Espanyol.