'Messi always gives his best for Argentina'
Lionel Messi may often be criticized for not showing the same spark for his country Argentina as for his club Barcelona, but the national team's midfielder Jonas Gutierrez and defender Pablo Zabaleta feel that the Argentine superstar gives his 100 per cent while representing his nation.
"Messi tries more than his best when he plays for Argentina. But you can't compare playing for Barca and playing for your country," both Gutierrez and Zabaleta, said.
Zabaleta, who plays for Manchester City, said it is wrong to compare club's performance with that of a country's.
"Those are two different aspects. But the best thing is to leave Messi in the position he is most comfortable with," Zabaleta said.
Image: Lionel Messi
Photographs: Dipak Chakraborty
The defender, who was part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal winning side, said their International friendly match against Venezuela will mark the road to World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
"The journey starts tomorrow. I will try to do my best to cement my place in the national side," Zabaleta said.
The 26-year-old insisted that the competition in South Americans countries have become very fierce now with no large divide anymore.
"For the last few years, it's not just about Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay but even players from Venezuela, Paraguay and Chile have made it to Europe, which only show that footballing standard in South America has increased by leaps and bounds."
Image: Argentinean players
Argentina and England may have shared a love-hate relationship since Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal during the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup between the two countries but Zabaleta said he was yet to face any problem in his stint with the Manchester City.
"I've been playing in England for last four years and honestly I've always felt that the Englishmen have given me the respect I deserve. Also I can speak decent English so chances of me facing any problem is little less," he said.
Asked about India, Zabaleta said they were overwhelmed by the euphoria generated by Messi.
"It's a populous country and we knew it's not football but cricket which is more popular here. But we are still hopeful that there will be plenty of people in the stadium to cheer us. The scenes at the airport were truly amazing when Messi landed. Our only motto is to show people that Argentina is a very good team," he said.
Image: Children playing football