Re Messi: We have a supremely sweet Argentine dairy delivery driver at our store, and he has already explained to me why Messi, the greatest footballer on the planet right now, is not loved by his home nation.
The argument is thus: Messi has not performed well in the World Cup Finals tournaments that he has been in, and that is true. Messi also went to Spain at a very early age, and did not play in the Argentine professional leagues. Messi also plays for Barcelona FC, one of the best club teams in the world, and a team that is essentially an international all-star team. So despite Messi absolutely shattering previous Club football goal-scoring records the past few years, Argentines continue to shrug their shoulders. Why?
Because of Maradona. Diego Maradona is arguably the greatest footballer of the Twentieth Century. He is also from Argentina, and he grew up in much worse circumstances than did Messi. The whole slums v suburbs argument again.
And, let us look at Maradona's CV: Maradona is one of the greatest World Cup players ever, who has scored both of the most talked about and celebrated goals in World Cup history. In the same game! (Poor Ingerland.) Sure, one of them might have been illegal, but it still has the coolest nickname: The Hand of God. (There was nothing illegal about the other goal, as Maradona mercilessly shredded the entire England side, essentially one-on-eleven, and calmly slotted the ball in the back of the net.) Maradona won that World Cup as captain, and led the Argentines to a second place finish four years later, despite playing with an injured ankle. Maradona's Club CV includes a decent sized stint with an Argentine club, a trip, also, to Barcelona, where he performed very well even though he and the management were not friendly. Then, Maradona was sold to Napoli in the Italian Serie A. Napoli was not a team of all-stars to say the least. Moreover, no Club team from Southern Italy had ever won the league title, period. Well, that changed. Maradona, nearly by himself, lifted that Napoli side to becoming one of the best teams on the continent.
Of course, there is the whole back page of Maradona's resume, too. That is the page that talks about the suspensions, the drug abuse, the steroids, etc, ... (Messi himself took steroids at a young age due to a growth hormone disorder.)
So, even with Maradona's complicated and tumultuous life off the pitch, he will always be revered over Messi in Argentina, and to me, personally.
I was fortunate enough to watch the Hand of God and the other goal v England in 1986. At home, on teevee, in Austim, Texas; and I have always adored difficult and feisty artists and athletes. Messi may be one of the greatest footballers I have ever seen, but he is no Maradona. I stand with the other Argentines, like that delivery guy.
World Cup in four days!