Lionel Messi played under Diego Maradona for Argentina. But that hasn’t stopped the Gimnasia de La Plata manager from hoping the 32-year-old struggles for Barcelona in tonight’s Champions League clash with Napoli.
Messi is set to play a starring role when Barcelona meet Napoli in the Champions League this evening.
The Catalan giants are determined to make the quarter-finals of the competition as they seek a first European triumph since 2015, back when Luis Enrique was manager.
Messi will follow in the footsteps of legend Maradona when he takes to the field against Napoli this evening.
But Maradona wants his compatriot to struggle because, though he played for both Barcelona and Napoli, he wants the Serie A giants to win the tie.
“I hope he doesn’t have a big game in Naples,” he told Il Mattino.
“And what are these comparisons they have been doing for 20 years now worth?
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“I have a great memory of Leo from my time at Argentina, it was fun to watch him in training and during the games.”
Maradona then praised Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso, who has lifted the side following his appointment as Carlo Ancelotti’s replacement.
“Napoli are going through a complicated campaign, they are experiencing their most difficult season in 15 years of [President Aurelio] De Laurentiis,” Maradona said.
“Gattuso is proving to be a great man for the dressing room.
“But there’s a new era that they need to open up again and it won’t be easy. The match against Barcelona will be very tough, but in football the predictions can be reversed.
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“So, my hope is that Napoli will be a big surprise and make their people happy.”
Messi has been linked with a move away from Barcelona in recent times.
Manchester City, despite their UEFA Champions League ban, have long dreamed of signing the Argentina international.
But Maradona doesn’t think the forward will be leaving the Nou Camp anytime soon.
And he feels that Barcelona is the only club he can see Messi at.
“Barcelona is the natural habitat for Leo. He started there, and he will end it there,” Maradona continued.
Barcelona were a side in crisis at the start of the month when they lost 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey.
But, since then, they’ve been resurgent.
Barcelona have beaten Real Betis, Getafe and Eibar in recent times to boost their chances of La Liga glory.
And they’ll be hoping for another victory at the San Paolo Stadium this evening.
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