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Journalism of Courage

‘I’m annoyed I missed the penalty,’ says Messi. How Maradona helped Messi to take freekicks

Scaloni, Argentina’s manager, says Messi will never be substituted during game unless he asks for it

Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona, Argentina vs Poland, ARG vs POL, Messi's missed kickFernando Signorini, who was a fitness trainer with Argentina when Maradona was the manager, and who was also the trainer during Maradona’s playing days, tells a lovely story of the two greats. (FILE )

In the 36th minute, after winning a bet with Poland’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny that he would be awarded a penalty, Messi began his run towards the ball. Messi’s penalty kicks have often been a matter of debate among his fans; that over the years he has missed quite a few.

In the two years from 2014, he would just score 10 of the 17 penalties, sending MessivsRonaldo (incidentally, such a site exists) fans into a tizzy. He would improve in the subsequent years though the misses have kept coming every now and then. In the last world cup, in Copa America, in club games and so on. So, as he ran towards the ball on Wednesday night, there was no guarantee that he would net it. Szczesny had reasons to hope.

“There’s a bit of work that goes into it, too, but in order to save a Messi penalty, you need some luck as well,” Szczesny would say.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi waves to the fans after the World Cup group C soccer match between Poland and Argentina at the Stadium 974 in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022. Argentina won 2-0. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Messi went for the left of the goalie, but not quite at the far post. Szczesny would dive and fist the ball away with his raised right fist.

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“I’m annoyed that I have missed the penalty,” Messi said. “But the team came out stronger after my mistake. “The team was convinced that we were going to win, it was a matter of scoring the first goal. After that, the rest of the game was played the way we wanted,” Messi said.

The manager talked about how he would never sub out Messi unless the player himself asks. “If he does not ask me, I will not take him out,” he said at the end of the game.
Not that Messi is ever going to ask him. ”Experience and age gave me to know how to control myself on the field and know the moments of the game. It is not necessary to go out to rest”, Messi said.

Incidentally, Diego Maradona too had problems with penalties, once missing five in a row.

How Maradona once helped Messi with free kicks


Unlike penalty kicks, Messi has wowed his fans with the free kicks, especially from a close range. But there was a moment, in the 2009 season, when he was a touch despondent with his free kicks.

Enter Diego Maradona.

Fernando Signorini, who was a fitness trainer with Argentina when Maradona was the manager, and who was also the trainer during Maradona’s playing days, tells a lovely story of the two greats.

During a training session in 2009, Messi had lifted a free kick over the bar and was about to sulk away, when Signorini first stopped him.


“I saw he was discouraged, and I took him by his shoulders and gave him a hug. I said: ‘Imagine—you’re on your way to becoming one of the best players in the history of football. You’re not going to sleep tonight after kicking that rubbish—you’ll have nightmares!’ Signorini told Bleacher Report.

“Diego [Maradona] was watching everything. He called him over, and, as always in a very affectionate and paternalistic way, he told him, ‘Leito, Leito, come, papi, come’.

“Then he asked our goalkeeper, Juan Pablo Carrizo, to stand back in goal. He put the ball down in the same spot Messi had just hit from and scored in the right-hand corner beyond Carrizo.

“Maradona told Messi: ‘Listen, when you strike the ball, don’t take your foot back so quickly because she won’t understand what you want to do.’ It was fantastic advice because what he was saying was that the ball has feelings. For me, it is a piece of leather and air and nothing else, but it seems for geniuses like them it’s something else.”

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 09:54 IST
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