The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 11 , 2017

Messi disappoints Diego

- Zurich gala was not Leo's priority, rues legend

Diego Maradona and Eva Longoria in Zurich on Monday. (AFP)

Zurich: Diego Maradona was disappointed that Lionel Messi and Barcelona opted not to come to for the Fifa awards ceremony, with Roberto Carlos and Michel Salgado also being critical of the Argentine and his club.

Messi, nominated for the Player of the Year award, had been expected to travel with Barcelona teammates Luis Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique.

However, the club announced on Monday that none of their players would attend the gala in Zurich due to the Copa del Rey match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

The Argentine was beaten to the award by Portugal and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and Maradona was frustrated that his compatriot was not present at the occasion.

"I'm disappointed with Messi... By watching television at home you cannot fight anything or anyone," Maradona said.

"I do not know why Barcelona did not come to such an important event. They have priorities and the Zurich gala was not Leo's priority."

Like Maradona, Carlos was also miffed by Barca's decision, suggesting Messi could learn humility from Ronaldo.

"I am sad and disappointed that Leo and his teammates did not come. They have many great footballers and all of us would have liked to see them attend," the former Brazil international said.

"We all wanted to see Messi, the other big players and the coach of Barcelona here.

"It's a Fifa prize. Fifa is the highest authority in football. So everyone should be here.

"Cristiano has learned the importance of this and I think Leo also needs to learn that he must be here. His mindset has to change.

"Real Madrid also have a match this week but they were well represented in Zurich. The obligations to win for both clubs are the same."

Salgado stated that he expected better from Barca, one of the biggest clubs in world football.

He said: "Real Madrid are currently the best team in the world so maybe this has affected the decision of the Barcelona players. Barcelona are wrong for not sending their best players.

"I know that the club has had issues with Fifa in the past but Barcelona need to understand that Fifa is changing.

This is not how you expect one of the world's biggest clubs to behave."

Ronaldo, after accepting the award from Fifa president Gianni Infantino, said: "I would like Messi to have been here today but they have an important game on Wednesday and we can understand that,".

"I don't have much more to say, I think the awards speak for themselves," he added.

Meanwhile, a statue of Messi has been destroyed by vandals in Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

Pictures of the sculpture after the attack show it cut in half from the waist up, leaving behind a pair of legs dribbling a football. Authorities in the city confirmed on Monday that repairs have begun, but did not say who the perpetrators were or what their motive might have been.

"The statue of Lionel Messi was victim of an act of vandalism," the Buenos Aires municipal government said in a statement. "The government is already working on its repair."

The vandalism took place hours before Messi missed out on the award ceremony to long-time rival Ronaldo.

The tribute was part of a series of sculptures of Argentina's sporting heroes on the Paseo de la Gloria (Walkway of Glory) along the banks of the Rio de la Plata.

It was erected last summer after Messi announced his short-lived retirement from international football and sits alongside statues of other greats such as Formula I world champion Juan Manuel Fangio and fellow footballer Diego Maradona.

Other statues on the Paseo de la Gloria have been vandalised in the past.

The daily La Nacion reports that a tribute to hockey player Luciana Aymar suffered a similar fate to that of Messi and that one for tennis player Gabriela Sabatini was stolen.

The Barcelona players, on the other hand, have been hard at work on the training ground as they bid to overcome a deficit against Athletic Bilbao and progress in the Copa del Rey. Luis Enrique's side suffered a 1-2 defeat at San Mames in the first leg on Thursday, but have a chance to put things right when they welcome the Basque club to the Nou Camp on Wednesday.

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