'Messi is a teddy bear' - Maradona feels Barca star should have served longer Argentina ban

Lionel Messi Argentina
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The World Cup winner is pleased to see a key man available for his country but believes the rescinding of his suspension shows preferential treatment

Diego Maradona says Lionel Messi is “more like a teddy bear than a football player”, but feels it was still wrong for his Argentina ban to be rescinded.

The Barcelona star has been cleared to play for his country again after sitting out just one game of an initial four-match suspension.

He has been cleared by the FIFA appeals committee after allegedly insulting a match official during a World Cup qualifier against Chile.

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Maradona believes the complete exoneration of Messi sends out the wrong message to those who have committed similar offences, with the authorities displaying preferential treatment.

He told Radio La Red: "It makes absolutely no sense, but Leo deserved [to be sanctioned] for one more match and I say that with my heart in my hand.

"They reduced the ban for the same reason they always do with star players and veteran players

"Messi is not the type of player to insult anyone. I managed him for one year and he is more like a teddy bear than a football player."

Diego Maradona Lionel Messi Argentina

While of the opinion that Messi is fortunate to be available for Argentina again, having missed a 2-0 defeat to Bolivia, Maradona is happy to have him back as his nation start to dream once more of emulating the achievements of his 1986 World Cup-winning side.

An iconic figure added: "You have to congratulate all those who made it possible to get Messi's ban reduced.

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"I am happy with the decision, both for Messi and because I am Argentine. We can return to dreaming about the World Cup again."

Argentina sit fifth in the CONMEBOL qualification table at present, with only a top-four finish enough to secure automatic qualification for Russia 2018 and avoid an inter-confederation play-off.