After a forgettable performance for Argentina in the World Cup final, Lionel Messi may have been hoping to lick his wounds in private this week. However, he now finds himself at the centre of a storm over the 'golden ball' award for the player of the tournament, which was presented to him on Sunday night.
Messi looked pretty sheepish as he collected the gong after the final, and now the man he failed to emulate in Brazil, Diego Maradona, says the Barcelona forward was only picked because it fitted in with Fifa's "marketing plan".
The Argentine legend says he would have preferred Colombia's James Rodriguez or a member of the victorious German squad to take the award.
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Maradona is a long-term admirer of Messi but he has refused to let that colour his view on the prize. "I would give him heaven if possible," said the 1986 World Cup winner. "But it's not right when someone wins something that he shouldn't have won just because of some marketing plan."
Fifa president Sepp Blatter also raised an eyebrow over the choice of Messi, though he hinted that Messi's performances in earlier rounds may have played a part in his selection.
"Shall I be diplomatic or tell you the truth?" began Blatter, when asked his view on the matter. "Listen, I was myself a little bit surprised when I saw Messi coming up for the 'golden ball'. But look at the goals scored by Messi in the different [group-stage] matches. They were decisive."
The winner of the golden ball award is chosen by Fifa's technical study group. In the past, the media was also involved in the selection and that system may be resumed at the next tournament.
"There was a long discussion," a Fifa spokesman said. "The decision was by the technical study group. Maybe it will change again. Maybe it will not have so much weight given to the technical group. We're open to suggestions. You can make your own opinion on Messi."
However, the man himself preferred to concentrate on the wasted opportunities of the final. "I'm very hurt at not being able to bring the Cup to Argentina," said Messi. "I am very angry at the way we lost, so close to the penalties, especially as we had the best chances. I do not care about the 'golden ball'. I am just upset by the wasted chances."
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