Lionel Messi is ‘like an unusual’ yet Argentina do NOT need to provide him the sphere regularly, firmly insists Angel Di Maria, as experienced winger ideas his side to ‘remain in the battle to win World Cup’
Angel Di Maria has praised Lionel Messi saying that playing with him is the ‘best thing’ that has happened in his career – but that then responsibility does not always need to be handed to the Paris Saint Germain star.
Messi, likely competing in his fifth and final World Cup, carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as him and his Argentine team-mates embark on a journey to win their first crown since the Diego Maradona-led triumph in 1986.
Speaking to La Nacion just days out from the start of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Di Maria said Messi was ‘like an alien’ but that others also had to step up to the plate.
Angel Di Maria (L) has described Lionel Messi (C) as being ‘like an alien’ – but that they don’t always have to funnel the ball to him
“For me, being by Leo’s side is everything. He’s the best in the world, an alien, and I won’t get tired of saying it,’ he said. ‘And I’ll say it again: playing with Leo is the best thing that happened to me in my career.
‘We have spent many years together in the national team and I was even able to play in the same team with him, because seeing him every day is much nicer.
‘I always try to connect with him, look for him, but also understanding that, although he can solve the play, you don’t always have to give it to him. Or you have to think about when it should be given.
Argentina are preparing in Abu Dhabi for the tournament which kicks off for them on November 22
Di Maria will be competing in his fourth – and like Messi, likely his last – World Cup having been part of every Argentina squad since 2010.
The Juventus wide-player has performed admirably at the last two editions, playing a key role in the country’s run to the final in 2014 and briefly dragging them from the mire against France with a wonder-strike in Russia four years ago.
Di Maria defended his record for his country, pointing to his 124 caps as justification for his prominent role over the last 12 years.
‘It’s not easy to stay in the Argentina team for so many years with the quality of player there is in our country,’ he said.
Messi is competing in his fifth – and likely final – World Cup with the forward once again carrying the hopes and dreams of his country
‘I’ve had plenty of criticisms, but I’ve played 124 games for the national team, I don’t think just anyone does that.’
Argentina have not lost in 35 games, two short of the all-time record which is held by Italy. Di Maria said they are going to Qatar full of confidence they can end the European hegemony on the trophy since 2006.
‘We could mention Spain and Germany as well [as France], but they are also going through transition periods, with lots of young players and we don’t know exactly what could happen or how they’ll react in a tournament as big as the World Cup,’ he said.
Di Maria said that Argentina are ready to ‘fight’ as they stepped up their preparations for the tournament
‘We can give anyone a fight. We are competitive and we can be in the fight to win it.
‘We’re in good form, we’re arriving in good shape, we won the Copa America and the Finalissima against Italy. We will fight in every game, that’s for sure.’
Argentina’s campaign gets underway on November 22 as they take on tournament minnows Saudi Arabia. They then face Mexico on November 26 before their Group C journey concludes with a game against Poland on 30th.