SAO PAULO (AFP) – Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella Monday hailed Lionel Messi’s “amazing” World Cup form and compared him to Diego Maradona during the team’s title run in 1986.
Sabella said he never had any doubts that Messi, who has not always produced his best at international level, would star at the tournament.
The four-time world player of the year, aged 27, has hit four of Argentina’s six goals en route to Tuesday’s last 16 knock-out game against Switzerland in Sao Paulo.
“Messi’s playing an amazing World Cup, that’s what everybody expected,” Sabella told reporters at Corinthians Arena.
“I expected it, so did his colleagues and so did all Argentinians in general. So of course we’re happy, we’re happy for the team and for him as well.
“He’s an important player for us. Maradona was a very important player in that time and Messi is important as well.”
Messi scored against all of Argentina’s group rivals Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria to lie one off Maradona’s haul of five goals in 1986, when the Albiceleste last won the World Cup.
Sabella said he was happy for the two-time world champions to rely on their star man — much as Brazil have counted on Messi’s Barcelona team-mate, Neymar.
“I think both players are amazing. Messi’s the best in the world, Neymar is a great player and of course with players like this the team depends on them. It’s normal,” he said