Diego Maradona has claimed Lionel Messi lacks the character to be a leader.
Argentina great Maradona was caught on microphone discussing the Barcelona star with Pele at a publicity event on Thursday in Paris.
Iconic former Brazil forward Pele asked his fellow World Cup winner if he knows his compatriot personally, prompting Maradona to offer an unguarded response.
“He’s a really good person, but he has no personality,” Maradona said.
“He lacks the character to be a leader.”
Pele responded: “Ah, I get it, he’s not like we were back in the days. In the 70s we Brazil had really good players like Rivellino, Gerson, Tostao.
“Not like Argentina now, which depends only on Messi. Maradona is saying that Messi is a good player, there’s no doubt about it, but he has no personality.”
Maradona’s assertion may perhaps be greeted favourably by some in Argentina.
Messi’s commitment to his country has at times been questioned, the forward having struggled to replicate his extraordinary club performances when playing for the Albiceleste.
The 28-year-old has twice lost in the final of the Copa America and once in the decider of the World Cup, with an Olympic gold medal in 2008 his only significant international honour.
He missed Argentina’s opening game of the Copa America, a 2-1 win over holders Chile, due to a back injury.