Football

Legendary Leo

Argentina coach Sabella says 'great' Messi deserves the award

PHOTO: REUTERS

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said Lionel Messi's Golden Ball award as the player of the World Cup was richly deserved despite the South Americans' 1-0 extra-time defeat by Germany in the final.

Messi missed a glorious chance for Argentina in the showpiece at the Maracana yesterday morning (Singapore time) but Sabella said the Barcelona attacker is already among the true greats of the game.

"He deserves it because he played an extraordinary World Cup," said Sabella.

"He was a fundamental factor in the team making it to the final, along with everything done by his other teammates.

"The World Cup is a highly demanding tournament, and as for his reputation, he is in that pantheon among the greats. But he was there before - he has been there for quite some time."

However, Messi himself said winning the award recognising the best player of the tournament had no significance to him.

"This was a chance to give the fans some joy after all the sadness," said the 27-year-old.

"The Golden Ball is not important. All I wanted was to lift the cup."

"We had our chances but we could not score. In games like these, that is not acceptable."

One of Messi's biggest fans, Diego Maradona - who praised him repeatedly during the tournament - said the Barcelona man was an undeserving Golden Ball winner.

"Messi? I would give him heaven if possible," said the World Cup winner on Venezuelan-based TV station, Telesur.

"But it's not right when someone wins something that he shouldn't have won just because of some marketing plan."

DISGRACE

Fellow pundit Stan Collymore agreed, calling it a "disgrace".

The former England international told talkSPORT: "His performance was poor tonight.

"We've seen him three or four times now in the flesh and he's been poor in all of them, bar several trademark runs which I think masks a lot.

"It's an absolute disgrace giving him the Golden Ball. You look at players like James Rodriguez, even players like Chile's Alexis Sanchez and Manuel Neuer (deserve it more).

"He wasn't even the best player in the Argentina side in the final or during the tournament, (Javier) Mascherano gets that vote for me."

- Wire Services.

World Cup