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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

I wish Ronaldo were Argentine, but still prefer Lionel Messi - Diego Maradona

Diego Maradona says he wishes Cristiano Ronaldo were Argentine, but still prefers Lionel Messi to lead the Albiceleste.

Maradona famously led Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title with decisive performances in the knockout stages of the competition.

Ronaldo, who was recently awarded his fourth Ballon d'Or, has won four Champions League titles -- equalling Messi's haul -- and led Portugal to their first major tournament crown in last summer's European Championship.

And while Maradona has praised the Real Madrid superstar, he would still choose Messi, who, though he has yet to win a title with Argentina, has led his country to three consecutive finals over the past three summers.

"Cristiano is an animal," Maradona told TyC Sports. "I wish he were Argentine.

"But I still prefer Messi. He is enjoying playing football and goes by opponents with ease.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Portugal, who could not hold the lead.
Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal to a European Championships title last summer.

"I don't remember seeing Messi play badly. Even if Messi does not win a World Cup, he will be remembered in football history.

"Leo cannot deliver the World Cup on his own. Even if he does not win a World Cup, we will still remember him."

Maradona, meanwhile, has taken a swipe at Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli for leaving out Sergio Aguero from the latest squad and including Mauro Icardi instead.

Sampaoli signed a five-year contract earlier this month to guide the national team after leaving Sevilla and the decision by the Argentine Football Association to appoint him was not well received by some former Argentina coaches, including Maradona.

Manchester City striker Aguero, who has scored 33 goals in 82 appearances for Argentina, was left out of the squad for the recent international friendlies against Brazil and Singapore. Instead, Inter Milan forward Icardi returned to the group after a four-year absence.

Aguero scored 20 goals and set up three more in 31 Premier League appearances for City last season yet still lost his place in the squad, and Maradona, who is grandfather to his son, has taken the decision personally.

He said: "To take out Aguero from the national team and to bring Icardi was madness. Aguero gives you more speed; he is more electric. That is why it hurts me that to give me a football slap, they call Icardi."

Maradona is grandfather to Sergio Aguero's son.

Sampaoli succeeded Edgardo Bauza, who was dismissed on April 10 after a poor run of results, and has taken over at a difficult time with Argentina fifth in their World Cup qualifying group.

Only the top four are assured of spots in Russia next summer with the fifth-placed team heading to a continental playoff. Argentina resume their campaign away to Uruguay on Aug. 31.

"As things stand right now I would sign for the playoffs," Maradona said. "Sampaoli doesn't know more than Bauza about football, I can assure you.

"I hear he takes eight coaches with him. If you have to take eight coaches, you might as well stay home. Sampaoli is false and it's crazy the contract they [the AFA] have given him."

Maradona also attacked former Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron, who was recently appointed coordinator of the nation's youth team.

Veron, who played under Maradona at the 2010 World Cup, was heavily critical of his management after that tournament and the two have not been on friendly terms since.

Reports in Argentina claimed that it was Veron who selected Argentina's latest squad back in May as Sampaoli had not been officially unveiled.

Maradona said: "Veron must have done that squad list. It would be better if Veron did the England list than the Argentina squad."

ESPN FC's Adriana Garcia contributed to this report.

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.


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