Maradona ended Napoli career by beating Italy, now PSG and France may turn on Messi

Maradona ended Napoli career by beating Italy, now PSG and France may turn on Messi

The club versus country debate is as old as time in England, but if you try and find the phrase in Argentina, you’re likely to reach a dead end.

Lionel Messi knows that all too well, with some from his homeland almost disowning the Spanish citizen who left Rosario more than two decades ago.

Messi arrived at PSG as a god

Getty

Messi arrived at PSG as a god

But now faces the prospect of being France’s enemy

Getty

But now faces the prospect of being France’s enemy

Unadmired compared to sons of Boca Juniors and River Plate such as Carlos Tevez and Pablo Aimar, Messi could obliterate any remaining dislike with a trophy lift on Sunday.

But in doing so, he could well earn the wrath of another nation in the World Cup final, much like the man he’s so desperate to replicate.

Messi takes on France in what’s long been scheduled as his last dance in international football, but what wasn’t expected is that he would be doing it as a citizen of Paris.

Signing for Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent from lifelong club Barcelona last summer, Messi was welcomed with open arms by an ecstatic Parc des Princes, but that could quickly change if history is anything to go by.

The last man to lead Argentina to World Cup glory was Diego Maradona in 1986, achieving the one feat Messi has left to tick off, likely ending any debate over who the greatest footballer of all-time is.

Maradona put his name right at the top of that list in ‘86, but in 1990, his pursuits ended in tragedy rather than honour.

Maradona didn’t realise what he’d got himself into by facing Italy

Maradona 2019, Film 4

Maradona didn’t realise what he’d got himself into by facing Italy

But for many it was clear

Maradona 2019, Film 4

But for many it was clear

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Fate declared it was always going to be that way, and it was later confirmed in the semi-finals when host country and Maradona’s home, Italy, drew Argentina.

The No.10 had led Napoli to the grandest years in their history as he became the best player in the world, but if things weren’t awkward enough, the match took place in his club’s stadium, the San Paolo, now called the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

And depending on who you believe, Maradona knowingly or unknowingly stoked tensions pre-match when he suggested Neapolitans should be supporting him.

“It’s six years of my life here in Napoli, I believe people know me well by now, and they’ll support my national team,” he said pre-match.

“I can’t ask the Neapolitans for anything more than I’ve asked in these six years but if they want to see me happy, for sure I would be pleased if they support Argentina.

Maradona’s pre-match comments didn’t help

Maradona 2019, Film 4

Maradona’s pre-match comments didn’t help

And the media went after him

Maradona 2019, Film 4

And the media went after him

“Also because we need it, and I believe that when Napoli needed Maradona, I came through for them.”

There’s still an argument over whether Maradona was intending to play on tensions between the rich north and more impoverished south, but there were no doubts for the media.

Maradona was attacked in the press before the game, and after scoring a penalty in the shoot-out to send Italy packing at their home tournament, things only got worse.

“That’s the time when everything starts to go wrong for him in Italy, that’s the time when they finally said, ‘OK enough is enough’,” said Italian historian John Foot.

Maradona scored the decisive penalty to send Italy packing

Maradona 2019, Film 4

Maradona scored the decisive penalty to send Italy packing

And they turned on him at the final in Rome

Maradona 2019, Film 4

And they turned on him at the final in Rome

“Italy turns on him, the protection he had… He’s no longer protected against the press, the judicial authorities, the tax authorities, the backlash is nasty.”

A rather boring final in Rome was lost 1-0 to West Germany and, due to its subdued nature, scenes pre-match dominated.

The stadium rang out in boos as the Argentina national anthem played, with an infuriated Maradona quite clearly seen saying ‘sons of b*****s’.

It proved to be a sorry end for an all-time great at the club that characterised him, with his career taking a dramatic downward turn after Argentina’s final defeat.

Could Messi face the same fate?

Could Messi face the same fate?

Of course Messi’s situation is vastly different as a player intrinsically linked with Barcelona, but what happens on Sunday could define how his career finishes.

Messi may well crown himself as the undisputed greatest of all time at the Lusail Stadium, but in doing so may have to quickly collect his belongings from Paris as his career comes to a close.

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Originally Posted By Talk Sport
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