Maradona can't count on Messi for Argentina

Diego Maradona won't be able to count on Lionel Messi for the national team's upcoming games due to a pre-existing agreement with Barcelona.

updated: November 07, 2008 08:38 IST
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Barcelona, Spain:

New Argentina coach Diego Maradona won't be able to count on Lionel Messi for the national team's upcoming games due to a pre-existing agreement between the Argentine federation and Barcelona.

Maradona met with the Barcelona player on Thursday during a European tour the former Argentina player is using to speak with players who will make up his national squad.

"We can't count on Leo because of the clause with Barcelona because we can't ride roughshod over anybody," Maradona, who spoke with Messi for about 40 minutes alongside Argentina manager Carlos Bilardo, told reporters.

Messi, one of the world's best attackers, is not available for Maradona's first match in charge -- a friendly against Scotland on November 19 -- due to a deal between the Argentine football federation and Barcelona that allowed the 21-year-old to help lead his country to gold at this summer's Olympics. Messi will also be unavailable for a friendly against France in February.

Maradona, who was travelling to Liverpool later on Thursday to meet with Javier Mascherano, said the short trip to Barcelona had served its purpose.

"(I wanted) to speak with Messi and tell him everything we thought, and we have said all we need and we leave happy," Maradona said.

Maradona said Messi told him he wanted "to play every game."

"That leaves everyone feeling calm," Maradona said.

Maradona had hoped to meet with Barcelona president Joan Laporta to discuss the issue but he is in Brussels, Belgium, and doesn't return until late Thursday.

Still, Laporta had already sent out a warning to the 48-year-old former footballing great that Barcelona would not allow Argentina any extra leverage just because Maradona is now in charge.

"Barcelona, the Argentina national team and Maradona as coach, we have a great responsibility which is to look after Leo Messi, who is looking to achieve the same footballing successes that Maradona himself obtained," Laporta said from the European parliament, where he was taking part in an anti-racism function.

Laporta left the door open to further dialogue, however.

"It's great news for football and for Argentina," Laporta said of Maradona's appointment.

Maradona, who took over for the departed Alfio Basile on Tuesday, dined with several of Real Madrid's four Argentine players following a 2-0 Champions League defeat to Juventus on Wednesday.

His first trip abroad on official team business was already causing a stir among squad members after Maradona said he would strip Javier Zanetti of the captain's armband in favour of Mascherano. Mascherano said he was uncomfortable with the decision.

The former Boca Juniors and Napoli player will also meet Manchester United striker Carlos Tevez while in England before continuing on to Munich, Germany.

Maradona's first competitive game in charge, when he can count on Messi, will be a South American World Cup qualifying match at Venezuela in March.