'Messi can't play Barcelona way for Argentina' – Umtiti defends club colleague from World Cup critics

The mercurial forward was below his brilliant best as the Albiceleste reached the last 16, but a French team-mate attributes this to the style of play

Lionel Messi cannot be expected to recreate his Barcelona performances in a very different set-up with Argentina, according to club team-mate Samuel Umtiti.

Argentina scraped through Group D at the World Cup and, prior to the final pool match against Nigeria, in which he scored a brilliant opener, Messi’s performances drew criticism.

But Umtiti, like many others, has pointed out that Messi cannot singlehandedly inspire a misfiring team, while he believes Argentina’s style of play crucially differs from Barca’s.

The two Camp Nou stars will go head to head on Saturday when Argentina face France in the last 16.

“[Messi] is different, he can’t play the same way with Argentina and Barcelona,” Umtiti told reporters. “He doesn’t have the same players, even though in Argentina they have very good players.

“It’s completely different with Barcelona, it’s a different playing style.

“I still think he saved them some times. When they were very close to losing, he often was there. This is when you must worry about Leo.

“The Argentinians are tough with him. I understand because of all his qualities, but he can’t do everything on his own.”

Umtiti was surprised by Messi’s mindset upon arriving at Camp Nou, immediately recognising that the Argentina man is constantly striving for more.

“I really feel that he doesn’t live football like others do – in the way he sees it, in the choices he makes and in the goals he scores,” Umtiti said.

“He just keeps scoring goals after goals. He has it in him. He doesn’t like losing. He always wants to win games and titles. I didn’t expect that from him because he already won everything. It’s his state of mind.”

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