Lionel Messi has been defended by fellow countryman Lucas Ocampos in the ongoing debate over the Barcelona man's form when representing Argentina.
Messi, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, has endured a tumultuous relationship with Albiceleste fans, initially starting out as an exciting youngster before being charged with leading mediocre squads to international glory.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has reached three finals with Argentina, losing in each of them to draw criticism from fans due to constant comparisons with the iconic Diego Maradona, who arguably single-handedly won the World Cup in 1986 with an average team.
Compatriot Ocampos, however, believes that such a burden cannot be shouldered by a single player in a team sport, stating that almost every other nation in the world appreciates the qualities that the 32-year-old brings to a team.
“I think that Argentina is one of the few countries in which Messi is criticised for some things that he does,” Ocampos told Goal. “But I think that more than 90 per cent of the world knows the quality that he has, what he represents for Argentina and for world football.”
Ocampos, meanwhile, has yet to make his debut for the Argentina senior side after being forced to pull out of the squad for the September friendlies against Chile and Mexico due to injury.
The 25-year-old, who joined Sevilla in the summer, had been a surprise inclusion in the squad for the double-header, but is hoping he will be able to retain his place in Lionel Scaloni's plans once he is fit again.
“I thought that I could have had a call from the national team before but you have to realise that there are a lot of players from great teams with a lot of quality that play in my position,” said the winger. “It was just a matter of continuing to work hard and now to keep working hard to stay in the squad.”
With Argentina co-hosting the 2020 Copa America with Colombia, Ocampos is keen to ensure he remains in Scaloni's thoughts throughout the season.
Ocampos added: “Imagining that the coach will continue to count on me to represent my country, especially in an official competition, is the best one can hope for."