Lionel Messi opens up on comparisons with Diego Maradona

Lionel Messi won a record seventh Ballon d’Or in Paris on Monday evening. The Argentine controversially beat Bayern Munich centre-forward Robert Lewandowski to the prize. Messi won his first Ballon d’Or in 2009 at the age of 22 – this latest prize has come exactly 12 years later, at the ripe old age of 34.

Messi scored 30 goals for a poor Barcelona side in La Liga last season, and was pivotal to their success in the Copa del Rey – he scored a brace in the final against Athletic Club, a game Barcelona won 4-0. Then, in the summer, he led Argentina to their first major title since 1993, beating Brazil in Rio de Janeiro in the final of the Copa America. Messi scored four goals and assisted five in 360 minutes of football, winning player of the tournament.

Messi, of course, had to leave Barcelona at the end of the summer transfer window due to the Catalan club’s dire financial situation. He’s since joined Paris Saint-Germain, linking up with former partner-in-crime Neymar at the Parc des Princes. Interestingly, he left the Brazilian keep his number ten shirt and instead opted for number 30 – the first number he ever wore – despite Neymar offering him the number ten.

“The ten belongs to him,” Messi explained to France Football in comments carried by Marca. “I came to a new team to help. It was an extraordinary gesture on his part – I expected it because I know Neymar. We spent time together at Barcelona and we’re friends. But it seemed more fair that he kept number ten. That’s why I took another one I liked.”

Messi also spoke about Diego Maradona, who passed away around this time last year at the age of 60. “Honestly, I have never compared myself to Diego, absolutely never,” he said. “I never paid attention to those comparisons. Some of the criticisms annoyed me in the past. I had a bad time with the national team, really, but not for those reasons.

“I often get angry at things, at criticism, but it stays in the dressing room. That’s where they should stay, private. It’s intimacy that makes a group strong, in addition to the fact that we can get pissed off and say things to each others faces that can help us improve. This can happen to me and to any other player.”

Tags Barcelona Diego Maradona La Liga Lionel Messi