Maradona: Messi to play against France

Diego Maradona confirmed that Lionel Messi will play the friendly match against France in Marseille on Feb 11.

updated: January 17, 2009 11:14 IST
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Buenos Aires:

Argentina national coach Diego Maradona confirmed on Friday that Barcelona midfielder Lionel Messi will play the friendly match against France in Marseille on Feb. 11, but shied away from confirming the complete roster.

Maradona reached an agreement with Barcelona Coach Joseph "Pep" Guardiola allowing Messi to play during the friendly - his second match as national coach.

"Both of us completely agree that Messi should do his best for Barcelona and for the national team," Maradona said Friday in a televised press conference after returning from a European tour to review the form of players for the national team.

Maradona, often considered the greatest football player ever, began as national coach Nov. 19 in a 1-0 win against Scotland. Messi didn't play the match because of an agreement between the Spanish Club and the Argentine football federation.

Messi should have received the FIFA World Player of Year, Maradona said, which went to Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo earlier this week.

But the football legend told Messi not to worry because he would win the award in the future.

Messi led Argentina to the Olympic gold in Beijing and has helped Barcelona take a commanding lead of the Spanish league, scoring 20 goals in 22 games this season.

Maradona said his two-week spin through Spain, Italy, England and Portugal was "marvelous," allowing him to talk to Argentine players such as Messi, Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero, Manchester United's Carlos Tevez and Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano, the Argentina team captain.

He said those players and others he visited in Europe want "revenge" for Argentina's poor performances in recent World Cups and to show football-crazed Argentines back home how well they've been playing in Europe.

Maradona said narrowing down the list of players would be "difficult" given the abundance of talented Argentine footballers playing locally and in European leagues.

He said all the players he was considering were top-notch, but "now they have to be straightened out" on and off the field, suggesting he needs to help the younger players focus better and find some cohesion for a team that hasn't yet reached its potential.