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Stoichkov would give up Golden Boot for Messi to win the World Cup
Argentina captain Lionel Messi
by Dom Farrell
13 Jun 2020, 08:41

Barcelona great Hristo Stoichkov says he would be willing to give up the Golden Boot he won at the 1994 World Cup if it meant Lionel Messi could win international football's greatest prize.

Despite sweeping the board during a glittering career with Barca, six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has never lifted a major honour with Argentina.

There were a succession of near misses during the past decade, with Germany beating La Albiceleste after extra time in the final of the 2014 World Cup, before Chile prevailed on penalties in the 2015 Copa America and Copa America Centenario showpieces.

The 2020 Copa America was due to start on Friday but has been put back 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, while the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is likely to be Messi's final tilt at the big prize.

Speaking to Argentinian station Radio Villa Trinidad, Stoichkov said he felt the 32-year-old had shouldered an unfair share of criticism over the failures of his national team.

"To see a friend happy, like Leo, and to stop him suffering so much for not being able to win a World Cup, I would change my Golden Boot, which I got at the 1994 World Cup, to see Messi world champion," he said.

"Always when he loses, Messi has the blame and they never talk about those who are next to him and fail.

"In South Africa [at the 2010 World Cup under Diego Maradona], they had a great team and where did it end and why? No one asks it.

"Later in Brazil, Argentina reached the final and when [other players] have clear opportunities, the fault lies with Messi and Messi loses.

"In the Copa America they have lost two finals on penalties. And again, Messi cannot win, but what do we do with the players who failed and Messi assisted them? They are hiding."

Nevertheless, Stoichkov does not think all is lost for Argentina ahead of Qatar 2022.

"Sooner or later the glory of Messi will end," he added. "Then we must value everything that was done in football.

"I believe that in 2022 in Qatar this Argentine national team will have the last great opportunity to win the World Cup in its history .

"With Lautaro Martinez, with Paulo Dybala, with the last campaigns, I imagine, by Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria. There is a very competitive team."