Lionel Messi does not have the same leadership qualities as Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Barcelona player Emmanuel Petit.
Messi has struggled to make an impact so far at Russia 2018, with Argentina on the brink of an early World Cup exit following their humiliating 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Friday.
Whereas Ronaldo netted a hat-trick in Portugal’s 3-3 draw with Spain before scoring their winner against Morocco, Messi has floundered in front of goal – missing a penalty against Iceland before putting in an underwhelming display in Nizhny Novgorod.
Jorge Sampaoli’s side must now beat Nigeria to stand a chance of qualifying, although they could still miss out shoud Iceland manage an unlikely victory over Croatia, and Petit – a World Cup winner with France in 1998 – insists Messi must shoulder some of the blame.
“He’s not a leader. He’s no Ronaldo in that regard. Messi is one of the best players ever, but he needs to show that mentality,” Petit told bookmaker Paddy Power.
“He needs to wake up! When things go well with Barcelona he’s a terrific player.
“We’ve seen it in the Champions League though, when things don’t go well, he can disappear on the pitch.
“He’s not there anymore. He’s not running, he’s walking. He’s not concerned about the ball. Come on.”
1 – This was Argentina’s heaviest defeat in the first round group stages of a World Cup tournament since losing 1-6 to Czechoslovakia in 1958. Crushed. #ARG #CRO #ARGCRO
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 21, 2018
Argentina only qualified for the World Cup due to Messi’s heroics in a crunch qualifier against Ecuador, as the Barca star scored a hat-trick to secure qualification.
However, Messi’s brilliance on that occasion masked serious flaws with Sampaoli’s set-up, and Petit believes slumping out in the group stage could be the wake up call Argentina need.
“The whole team’s body language was so poor, no confidence, no trust between each other. The way they looked, I cannot see Argentina qualifying now,” he continued.
“It would be a shame to see them qualify, because against Iceland they looked terrible, with no inspiration, nothing at all.
“And the manager Sampaoli has made so many mistakes since the start of the tournament, in choosing his team, making substitutions, everything.
“You remember so many Argentina teams with great players in the past, but this team is so far from those. They look terrible.”