Diego Maradona backtracks on Lionel Messi 'toilet' criticism

Diego Maradona attempted to defuse his controversial comments about Lionel Messi by claiming his friendship with the Barcelona and Argentina forward is "bigger than anything that journalists can write."

Maradona made headlines earlier this month when he criticised Messi by saying "it's useless trying to make a leader out of a man who goes to the toilet 20 times before a game."

Maradona was referring to the extreme nerves Messi feels ahead of certain games which have seen him vomit before and during matches.

"I know who Leo is," Maradona, who is coaching Mexican side Dorados de Sinaloa, said after his team's 3-2 win at Mineros de Zacatecas at the weekend. "I know he is the best in the world. If 20 players go to the bathroom before a game, I never mentioned Lionel Messi.

"What happens is that people want to put me in confrontation with Messi and they can't. They can't. The friendship I have with Lionel is much bigger than what all of you [journalists] can write. I'm saying Messi is the best in the world."

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi has taken a break from the Argentina national team since captaining them to the round-of-16 at the World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual champions France.

He has not publicly addressed his future, much to Maradona's disappointment.

Maradona, who coached Messi and Argentina from 2008 to 2010, recently said that the 31-year-old should quit the national team for good and send "everyone to hell."

Messi, who has scored 65 goals in 128 appearances for Argentina, quit the national team after their loss to Chile in the Copa America final in 2016 before changing his mind and playing again.

He came to Argentina's rescue in their World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring a hat trick to lift his team past Ecuador and into the tournament.

Messi, meanwhile, will be sidelined until next month after fracturing a bone in his right arm during his team's 4-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday.

This season he has scored 12 goals in 13 appearances for Barca, including seven in La Liga.