Messi: No problem with Diego

Argentina striker Lionel Messi has insisted he could work Diego Maradona, despite the legend's recent criticisms of the Barcelona star.

Messi told sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport he had "no problems" with Tuesday's news that Maradona is set to be appointed as the national team coach, adding: "It's great, I admire him for what he has given Argentinian football."

Maradona openly criticised Messi in September, saying the 21-year-old was selfish and arrogant. "Sometimes Messi plays for Messi," he said.  "He feels so superior that he forgets his team-mates. It's Deportivo Messi (a one-man team). If he played with (Sergio) Aguero or (Juan Roman) Riquelme it would be better for him."

But Messi insisted that Maradona's attack was now in the past and forgotten about. "These were things said in the moment. I know that Diego appreciates me," Messi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Maradona, who will be 48 on Thursday, has no top level coaching experience but his former president at Napoli Corrado Ferlaino claimed he was always a leader on the pitch.

"When he was here at Napoli he was the coach on the pitch," said Ferlaino, the Napoli president from 1983-1993, during their most glorious period during which Maradona spent seven seasons there and they won their only two Serie A titles.

"There was a time when (Ottavio) Bianchi was the coach but from his second season the players didn't talk to Bianchi, Maradona was the true coach," added Ferlaino.

The often controversial Maradona has stressed that he wants to return the team to the highs of the 1986 FIFA World Cup™ when, as a player, he inspired Argentina almost singlehandedly to the title.

Alfio Basile resigned from the post a fortnight ago after a FIFA World Cup qualifying defeat to Chile left them in third place after ten matches, seven points adrift of leaders Paraguay.

Maradona won crucial support last week when Noray Nakis, the president of the Argentina Football Association (AFA) selection commission, threw his weight behind his candidature.

He faces competition for the job from Carlos Bianchi, the former coach of Boca Juniors, whom he led to four national league titles, San Lorenzo coach Miguel Angel Russo and Sergio Batista who took the Under-23 squad to Olympic gold in Beijing in August.