Maradona defends Messi from ‘idiots’

Argentina legend Diego Maradona has defended under-fire forward Lionel Messi after criticism of the Barcelona star for his below-par performances at the Copa America.

Messi has struggled to match his Barcelona form at international level in disappointing draws against Bolivia and Colombia, but Maradona says the whole Argentina team has been poor.

"I want to defend Messi," he told Ole.

"The national team didn’t attack at all (in the 0-0 draw with Colombia) and we blame him; we are being very unfair to Messi when I hear all those idiots slamming him."

Maradona revealed he had spoken to the 24-year-old and also compared the situation to his own problems prior to the 1986 World Cup.

"I spoke to him during the week and I told him to remain calm," he said.

"Before the 1986 World Cup I was a disaster and I was criticised by 80% of the journalists (in Argentina). Later, there wasn’t one who didn’t ask me for a story, so I can understand what’s going on."

Maradona also took the opportunity to send a message of support to Argentina’s players, but not to the team’s coaching staff or officials.

"I wish the best in the world to all of the boys who were with me at the World Cup and all of the other players," he said.

"But not to the others."