Former Mexico international and current Leganes coach Javier Aguirre has come up against Argentine legends Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona in his playing and managerial career and while he thinks both are “extraordinary,” the difference between them is in their behavior.
“I played against Maradona four times, he’s an extraordinary player,” Aguirre told ESPN’s Herculez Gomez. “There’s a big difference [between them]. Maradona used to talk a lot on the pitch, to the referee, his teammates, and Messi no.”
“Leo is a very quiet guy, a normal guy, you just give him the ball … you never saw Messi shouting at the coach, at the referee, even if you kick the guy; Maradona was different in character,” he continued. “Both are extraordinary. You love to watch these guys on the pitch, even if they are your rivals.”
Aguirre coached Mexico at the 2002 World Cup and joined Osasuna shortly after. And he wasn’t in Spain long before Messi’s talents came to his attention.
“In 2002 we played at Sevilla so I was training the day of the game,” said Aguirre, in English. “My manager told me to come. On the next pitch there was a youth game: Sevilla against Barcelona. The guy told me, ‘look at that small guy there with Barcelona.’ [He had] long hair, like a rat, 1.50 [meters, 4 feet, 11 inches] or something. The guy scored in like 10 minutes, nobody could stop him, no chance. The next year Osasuna played against Barcelona and he was amazing, amazing.”
“El Vasco” Aguirre has tried to stop Messi on a number of occasions as coach of El Tri — he also managed Mexico at the 2010 World Cup — Atletico Madrid and Espanyol, but finding a solution to the Argentine’s genius has been anything but easy.
“[It’s] very complicated,” said the 61-year-old. “I tried everything against him. One v one, [man marking], two against one, kicking him, but the guy is unstoppable.”
“He’s very different than Cristiano [Ronaldo] but both of them are very difficult. You have to understand that the only way you can stop him is for him not to receive the ball, you have to cut the circuit.”