DIEGO Maradona said last night that he is ready to roll out the red carpet for Lionel Messi as he seeks to become the first Argentine captain since Maradona to lift the World Cup.
Many in the South American country feel Messi continues to live in the shadow of the man who guided La Albiceleste to glory in 1986. Maradona, however, believes the Barcelona striker can win the trophy for Argentina in tonight’s final against Germany in Rio de Janeiro.
“If on Sunday Messi has to overcome Maradona to lift the cup, I’ll give him the red carpet,” Maradona told the television show De Zurda. “He will be the player who will define the game. The only fear I have is that he is tired, but in the end you cannot be tired. I think he will understand. If you miss a shot on Sunday, you only resemble the best in the world.”
Maradona added that Germany should not be seen as invincible after their 7-1 semi-final win over Brazil.
“Germany is not impossible. Argentina can do it. Against Algeria, we saw one Germany, and against Brazil [we saw] another.
“We all expected it to be Brazil in the final. Argentina are going in strengthened. Once again Argentine football is back at the top. The jersey had lost prestige. Today it got it back.
“The Argentines need to win this final. It could not be an all European final in South America, so we represent our continent. We could not allow it.”
Meanwhile, World Cup revelation James Rodriguez admits it would be a dream come true to join Real Madrid, but says his future is in the hands of his current club Monaco.
Madrid have been heavily linked with a ¤70 million (£55m) swoop for the 23-year-old forward, one of the stand-out players in Brazil and still leading the scoring charts with six goals, despite Colombia being knocked out in quarter-finals.
Rodriguez, who only joined Monaco from Porto last season for a fee in the region of £38.5m, revealed he would fulfil a life’s dream by moving to the Bernabeu and would relish the chance to line up alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.
He told Spanish newspaper Marca: “It’s really flattering to know that a club like Madrid, of such magnitude, are interested in me.
“I have a great deal of respect for other clubs and admire the good football they play, but ultimately Real Madrid are Real Madrid.
“It’s a dream, as I said, but also a privilege to play alongside players of such quality, all those world-class stars.
“Cristiano is a great player, a superstar in capital letters. Cristiano deservedly won the Ballon d’Or, which recognises the best player in the world.”