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Lionel Messi He raised his gaze to heaven and thanked Diego Maradona for winning the Copa América against Brazil at the Maracana, on the night of July 10, when he was finally consecrated, heir to the great Albiceleste captain.

“He sure banked (supported) us from wherever he is,” said Messi. The one born in a working-class and middle-class neighborhood of Rosario (to the north) did not want to forget the one that arose from a “shantytown”, in a southern suburb of Buenos Aires.

Argentina broke a 28-year spell in the Rio de Janeiro coliseum without winning a first-level tournament for seniors. He did it with a solid set and an angelic goal: an exquisite left-foot hole from Ángel Di María.

The ‘Flea’ was thus able to gird up the vacant crown of ‘Pelusa’, the iconic leader who died in his bed a year ago.

The succession had also been slow. They were years of bitterness with the National Team, despite offering him his talent and dream goals.

Argentina broke a 28-year spell in the Rio de Janeiro coliseum without winning a first-level senior tournament

“His name is Lionel Messi”

Maradona knew it since 2006 when he declared. “I already know the player who will take my place in Argentine football, his name is Lionel Messi”.

On another unforgettable night, before the match with Greece (2-0) for the group stage of the World Cup in South Africa-2010, who had forever entered the hearts of millions of fans by winning the World Cup in Mexico-1986, happened to him the symbolic command.

“Get ready, Leo, you’re going to be captain,” said Maradona, at that time coach of Argentina, to a 22-year-old Messi. The Rosario looked still immature for leadership. It hardened over time.

Then came the criticism. They were provoked by Maradona’s confrontational and passionate personality. Diego did not leave a ‘puppet with a head’, as the popular saying points out, be it the president of the United States, the pope or the head of FIFA.

“Let’s not deify anyone anymore. A man who goes to the bathroom 20 times before a game cannot be the leader,” he said when Messi and La Albiceleste did not hit the ball.

Messi never answered him. On the contrary. They were day and night on matters to air in public. He praised him without hesitation: “I lived his time as a coach of the National Team and the truth is that he enjoyed it a lot, he lived it to the fullest.”

Maradona then returned it to his personal Olympus. When the sticks to Messi were raging at Barça, he defended him: “They will always want us to be in a fight. But I eat a barbecue with Messi, we play football, tennis and we are happy.”

Tributes

Who was better? The two Argentine DT world champions, César Menotti (Argentina-1978) and Carlos Bilardo (Mexico-1986) if they agreed on something was to say that the comparison “is useless” because they are “different times” and teams.

What is remarkable is the inheritance. “It is no coincidence to have Maradona and Messi, two number one in 30 years. It has to do with genetics, but also with the culture that stimulates that facility,” said Jorge Dotto, a geneticist who worked with the Argentine Football Association (AFA) and who assists basketball player Leandro Bolmaro in the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

After Maradona’s death, the tributes ‘from the other 10’ in history multiplied. He celebrated goals in his own way: running to the wing, jumping and punching the air.

He scored a penalty goal against Chile in Santiago (1-1) for the qualifier for the Qatar-2022 World Cup and dedicated it to him: “It was a very special match because it was the first without Diego. We want to represent the National Team as it always did. him, leaving everything. “

The greatest tribute was paid by scoring a goal for FC Barcelona against Osasuna. He took off his shirt and underneath he had that of Newell’s (his loves club) that Maradona had worn in 1993 and that he had given him.

And he sent a kiss with both hands to the sky.

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