Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone has made comments regarding fellow countryman Lionel Messi, bringing into question the Barcelona forward's ability to 'lift a normal team' after Argentina were beaten comfortably 3-0 by Croatia in their second World Cup group game.
Goals from Ante Rebić, Luka Modrić, and Ivan Rakitić left Argentina on the brink of elimination from the tournament and former Argentina captain Simeone expressed his thoughts in a leaked WhatsApp message to his assistant Germán Burgos.
Discussing Argentina’s exit, Simeone said: (via the Mirror) "Messi is very good but he is very good because he is accompanied by extraordinary players. But if you had to choose between Messi and Ronaldo for a normal team, who would you choose?"
Without saying it directly, it was clear that the Atletico Madrid boss would choose the Portuguese star who has scored four goals in two games at the World Cup so far, including a hat-trick against Spain.
Simone went on to express his frustration at the lack of leadership shown by everyone involved in Argentina's side, adding: "What we saw against Croatia is the picture of what has happened over the past four years, unfortunately. I do not see anyone leading. There is no leadership, either from the coach, who should be leading, or the players, who should be led. I see that the team is lost."
Ante Rebic opened the scoring after a mistake from Argentina goalkeeper Willy Caballero, a mistake that Simeone saw coming,
"The goalkeeper...He had done it already, Germán! He did it against Spain, against Italy the ball went just wide near the post, and I told you it was a pity he didn't concede so they'd realise that if you screw it in the World Cup, it's a goal."
The former Argentina international, an excellent coach who has taken Atletico Madrid to a La Liga title and two Champions League finals, brought into serious question the coaching, leadership and tactics of Jorge Sampaoli.
"He picked the wrong team and tactics too. He should have started against Iceland, the weaker team, in the way he played against Croatia because they are a much weaker team and the other way round – the way he played against Iceland was how he should have played against Croatia.
"When the coaches screw up, it’s worse than when the players s*** it. So it has to be down to the coach. It’s on him.
🎙 Jorge Sampaoli en conferencia: "Le pido disculpas a la gente que hizo el esfuerzo por estar acá. Tenía tanta ilusión como ellos. Intenté hacer lo mejor posible".— Selección Argentina 🇦🇷 (@Argentina) June 21, 2018
"It is clear that in the dressing room players are beating each other up but in these situations, you need someone to fight. We all say the players are the most important part of the game and the coach usually play it down when players mess it up, but the coach is also participating in this."
Despite the result against Croatia, Simeone still believes that his country will make it to the last 16 of the tournament.
"I think it will happen. Nigeria is going to beat Iceland and there you will have the chance to beat Nigeria and pass, as long as Iceland does not win against Croatia."
Argentina plays their last game of the World Cup group stage against Nigeria on June 26th.