Former Argentina international Roberto Ayala has spoken about his relationship with Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi's impact on Argentina's football. The 47-year-old is on Lionel Scaloni's training staff with the Albiceleste
Ayala is has a lot of respect for Lionel Messi, with who he shortly shared a changing room with when they were at the furthest edges of their international professions.
"He's a beast," Ayala said. "He's someone ordinary, who wants to be treated as one of the others. But he plays so beautifully, so well.
"I enjoyed having him as a teammate and I enjoy having him here. He's a reference in every sense because of the importance he holds for his teammates and how he communicates. He wants to be here, and he really feels the national team. Hopefully fate will give him something with this shirt, because he's looking for it and wants it more than anyone."
Former Albiceleste center-back believes
is a true leader in the Argentina team.
"Messi is a leader with his game and also with his words," he said.
"I notice it by his behaviour with his teammates. When I see how they handle themselves [around him], you realise you're looking at a reference."
Ayala addressed his relationship with
, who he turned out to be dear companions.
"It's difficult to talk about him, because whatever you say will never be enough [to describe him]."
Ayala talked about a present the late Maradona gave him after a charity game in Morocco.
“The game ended and we were both sitting in the locker room,” he said. “He took off the captain’s tape and gave it to me. I didn’t know what to do. I never asked anyone for anything. But I asked him if he could sign it for me, and he dedicated it to me. He wrote: ‘for my captain’.
“It hurts me to not have him among us, as he was a guy who made me happy. If I had a problem the day before, Diego knew it.”
Ayala also said of how Maradona helped his teammates.
“He made you believe that you were very good,” he said. “I remember the speeches he’d do at the 2006 World Cup in the dressing room before games. I wanted to go out and eat up the pitch.”
Previously played for Valencia and Real Zaragoza in Spain, Ayala was the first Argentinian to play for Napoli since Maradona's historical stretch at Gli Azzurri. He said he went to a diner in the city, and when he was about to pay for food, the owner told him:
"here, an Argentine doesn't pay because Diego already paid us more than that with everything he gave us."
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