Diego Maradona has declared that Lionel Messi did not deserve to be chosen as the best player of the 2014 World Cup, suggesting the Argentina forward won the award for marketing reasons.
A dejected Messi picked up Fifa’s Golden Ball for outstanding player of the tournament moments after Germany forward Mario Götze’s extra-time winner condemned Argentina to defeat in the World Cup final.
Messi had scored four goals in the group stages but failed to maintain his level of performance in the knock-out rounds, particularly against Germany and against the Netherlands in the semi-final, which Argentina won on penalties.
“I would give heaven and earth to Leo, but when marketing people want him to win something he didn’t (deserve to) win, it is unfair,” said Maradona, the winner of the Golden Ball when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986.
“I could see that he didn’t want to go up and collect it (the award).”
Barcelona star Messi is a prominent ambassador for sportswear manufacturer Adidas, also an official Fifa partner.
Speaking on the final edition of his World Cup television programme De Zurda, Maradona said Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the tournament, was his choice for the Golden Ball.
Germany have now beaten Argentina in each of the last three World Cups, thrashing a side coached by Maradona 4-0 in 2010.
But on this occasion, the former Argentina captain said there was little to choose between the two teams.
“We raised our flag high, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“Germany won due to a misunderstanding in the defence but at no point were they better than us. They showed us a lot of respect, and our lads earned that out on the pitch.”