Lionel Messi’s grandfather has criticised the four-time Ballon d’Or winner’s performance at the recent Copa America in Chile, labelling the Barcelona superstar ‘lazy’.
Antonio Cuccitini told Radio Casilda that Messi failed to perform at the tournament, even while Argentina made the final of the competition. The 28-year-old though scored just once throughout, and could only watch on as teammates Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega missed in the penalty shootout defeat to Chile on Saturday, as Chile lifted the trophy.
Messi himself scored in the shootout, but failed to produce the kind of magic that Barcelona fans have become accustomed to over the course of his career. Cuccitini believes Messi could have done far more to help his side get their hands on their first piece of silverware in over 20 years – though their wait now goes on.
He said: “Some of him was there. Triumphs are the greatest things there are. But the last three games he was bad. He was lazy.”
However, Messi himself appeared to be torn up by the defeat in the aftermath, posting a message to his Facebook page on Monday, saying: “There’s nothing more painful in soccer than losing a final. But I can’t spend anymore time without saying thank you to everyone who has always supported us and continued to during the tough moments.”
Messi has come in for criticism for his play in Argentina in the wake of the defeat, but former player and current Estudiantes president Juan Sebastian Veron told Fox Sports Radio Del Plata that Messi has been unfairly disrespected.
Messi’s first public words since Copa America: “I am fine, everything is fine, thank you,” pic.twitter.com/dGlQeOJ0CY — Neymar Jr. (@NeyMarvellous) July 9, 2015
He said: “It is one thing to criticise. It is another thing to show complete lack of respect for someone when they have fallen to the ground and then step on them or denigrate them.
“That someone would say to a player: ‘you can’t play,’ I can’t conceive that, it goes beyond the talk of whether Messi has to stay (representing the national team) or not. It is about the respect you have for the work that player does. And the player has been disrespected here.
“It is not just Messi, I am not just defending one player. I am saying that this is a profession just like many others. And we football players, we don’t go around saying or defining how each person should work. That we are public figures, that is part of being a football player, but it doesn’t give people the authority to disrespect us as was done.” By Scott Saunders