Argentina Great Diego Maradona Stands By Comments On Lionel Messi But Denies It Was Criticism

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Argentina great Diego Maradona stood by his questioning of Lionel Messi, but insists it was not meant as a criticism.

Maradona was caught telling Pele that national team captain Messi had "no personality" and lacked the character to be a leader.

Messi responded to the criticism by coming off the bench and scoring a hat trick in his side's 5-0 win over Panama at the Copa America Centenario on Friday.

Despite that, the 1986 World Cup winner said he still felt the same – but it was no criticism of Messi.

"I still think the same thing I told Pele," Maradona told Diario Popular. "But I do not want it to look like a criticism. It is not so.

"The boy [Messi] they want as a leader and leaders are made alone."

Maradona believes the captaincy could be weighing Messi down, saying: "If you demand Leo plays with his right [leg], he will play poorly. You have to let him play."

Argentina has booked its spot in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals and faces Bolivia on Tuesday.