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Maradona: Messi is the best player today & an enormous talent, but I hope Napoli beat Barcelona

The Argentine icon has talked up the qualities of his fellow countryman but admits his heart lies with Italian hopefuls in the Champions League

Diego Maradona admits Lionel Messi is “the best football player today” and considers his fellow Argentine to be an “enormous” talent but is hoping to see the Barcelona superstar downed by Napoli.

The first leg of an eagerly-anticipated Champions League last-16 encounter is due to be staged at Stadio San Paolo on Tuesday.

That contest is set to see six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi step into the arena iconic countryman Maradona once called home.

Much is being made of the Barcelona captain’s presence in Naples, with the 32-year-old following in some illustrious footsteps.

Comparisons continue to be made between his remarkable career and that of World Cup winner Maradona, with there little to separate two all-time greats.

Two men at the centre of a fierce debate have attempted to steer clear of being drawn into one regarding who can be considered the best.

Both have the utmost respect for one another, with Maradona considering Messi to be “a very good boy”.

He also told Il Mattino of the mercurial Barca star that he once managed while working as head coach of the Argentina national side: “He must continue his career and his life knowing that he is the best football player today.

“I enjoyed watching Leo with Argentina in every game.”

Maradona is currently working with Gimnasia de la Plata, but will be an interested observer when Napoli lock horns with Messi and Barcelona.

He is hoping to see his former club claim a notable European scalp, allowing them to dream of emulating the success he once enjoyed with Gli Azzurri.

“I have given everything to Napoli and Napoli has given everything to me showing its affection,” the honorary citizen of Naples said. 

“They [the 1980s] were great years for the team and for Argentina. We managed to win the [Serie A] championship, the UEFA Cup and the World Cup.”

Maradona believes Napoli are coming through a “difficult situation” now that they have Gennaro Gattuso at the helm, with the club having lost their way for a while under Carlo Ancelotti, and he hopes that the Italian outfit can “surprise [everyone] and give joy to their people” by sending Barca packing in continental competition.

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