Former Argentina international footballer Óscar Ruggeri has called on his compatriot Lionel Messi to quit Barcelona and focus on playing for the Blue and White Stripes.
Ruggeri’s opinion is intended to help Messi enjoy a memorable 2018 World Cup in Russia, which could be his last, true legacy in the annals of football.
Image: Óscar Ruggeri
Ruggeri was a guest at 90 Minutes Fox, where he highlighted Messi’s chance of lifting the World Cup once in a lifetime and advised that Barca’s Copa del Rey finals should be the famous footballer’s last.
“Stop playing for this club, Barcelona,” Ruggeri suggests, ahead of this weekend’s match.
He continued, “You’d be so wrong to think Barcelona will lose the Spanish championship if Messi doesn’t play for them…What he needs to do is simple; call the club president and tell him ‘this is my World Cup.'”
Ruggeri, 56, is considered one of the most successful defenders from Argentina. Nicknamed “El Cabezón” (translated as “The Big-Headed One”), the famous center-back played for Boca Junior alongside Diego Maradona, with whom he won the league in 1981 before moving to River Plate for a trophy-laden career.
The defender’s ample experience and reputation is evident in his declaration as Argentina and South America’s Player of the Year in 1991, the same year he also won La Liga Best Foreign Player, an Olimpia Award, and was among FIFA Best XI.
“Messi should explain that he wants to dedicate himself to the national team,” Ruggeri added and advised Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli to hold discussions with the 5-time Ballon d’Or winner.
However, Ruggeri insists Messi’s decision to concentrate on the Argentina national team should be of his own volition.
“He [Messi] should also call the national team coach and tell him that his mind is made up on the Russia 2018 World Cup,” said Argentina’s most-capped defender with 97 games, until he was surpassed by Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone.
Ruggeri recalled Argentina’s victorious 1986 team and their preparations ahead of the World Cup.
“Before Mexico 1986 we had 65 days to focus,” he said. “65 days before the World Cup we were all together….What do you think the rest of the players are going to do if Messi goes to focus with the coach?” Ruggeri asked, suggesting his teammates at Camp Nou will use a good replacement for the game.
Ruggeri played for clubs in Mexico, Italy and Spain, before his retirement from active football. He was part of the famous 1986 Argentina team, and notably captained the 1994 squad in their last two games after Maradona was expelled from the competition.
No Argentine player has lifted the trophy since Maradona did in 1986.