Lionel Messi: It makes me angry that people say I run the Argentina team
Lionel Messi has told ESPN that it makes him angry when people claim he makes the big decisions for the Argentina national team.
Messi, whose hat trick took Argentina to the World Cup last month, has been accused of selecting coaches and influencing which players do and do not make the squad in the past.
The Barcelona forward, however, criticised the "ridiculous" comments that have been made about him.
"It makes me angry that people say so many things so easily," Messi told ESPN's Diego Monroig about his thoughts on the suggestion he runs the Argentina team.
"People say a lot of things without knowing. So, on one hand, it makes me angry. But on the other hand, I am used to everything that they say.
"I am used to all the ridiculous things they say not just about me, but about this group [of players] from the last few years, so I can live with it."
In an interview with TyC Sports, Messi added that the people making the comments were showing a lack of respect, not just to him, but to his international teammates.
"It's a lie that I put my friends and the coaches I want in the national team. I'm just one more player in the team," the Barcelona forward said.
"To tell these great players -- [Angel] Di Maria, [Sergio] Aguero, [Gonzalo] Higuain and [Javier] Mascherano, who are worldwide figures -- that, 'You play because you're Messi's friend,' shows a lack of respect towards them and also towards me.
"It's a lie. I never choose players for the team or take them out. That's not who I am. I am here to add to the squad, nothing else."
Criticism of Argentina was present throughout their World Cup qualifying campaign, as they left it late before booking their ticket to Russia next summer, courtesy of Messi's treble in the final group game against Ecuador.
With Messi now 30 years old and a number of other players in Jorge Sampaoli's squad also approaching the latter stages of their careers -- including Di Maria, Mascherano and Higuain -- it might prove the last chance for this group to win a World Cup.
Messi said he doesn't think about how many years he has left.
"No, honestly, I hadn't taken a decision [on my international future]," he said. "But I think it would have been yes, it would have been the end for this group [of players], because it would have been crazy not to qualify for the World Cup. Honestly, I can't even imagine what would have happened, because it would have been terrible for everyone.
"[Last World Cup?] I don't know. I try to not to look at the future and to just focus on the day-to-day and set objectives in the near future. I don't know what's going to happen after the World Cup. We're just going to keep growing in the coming months, taking advantage of the little time we have [before Russia 2018]. After that, we will see."
Di Maria had admitted that he felt that failing to qualify for Russia would have meant the finish to a number of international careers.
"It played with our heads that it took us so long to qualify," Di Maria told ESPN. "To not have made it to the World Cup would have meant the end of international football for a lot of us, myself included.
"That was impossible to imagine. I can't speak for others, but I think most thought the same thing. We needed to qualify to get our heads on straight. We had been doing everything to qualify and we couldn't get it done.
"But now that we have, we can work much better with the coaching staff. Psychologically, not being able to score goals was fatal for us [during qualifying]."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.