"Messi gives his best for Argentina"
Midfielder Jonas Gutierrez and defender Pablo Zabaleta believe that Lionel Messi gives 100 per cent while representing Argentina.
Messi has often been criticised for not showing the same spark for his country, Argentina, as for his club, Barcelona. But the duo believe differently.
"Messi tries more than his best when he plays for Argentina. But you can't compare playing for Barca and playing for your country," both Gutierrez and Zabaleta said.
Zabaleta, who plays for Manchester City, said it is wrong to compare a club's performance with that of a country's.
"Those are two different aspects. But the best thing is to leave Messi in the position he is most comfortable with," Zabaleta said.
The defender, who was part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal-winning side, said their international friendly match against Venezuela on Friday will be the first step on the road to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
"The journey starts on Friday. I will try to do my best to cement my place in the national side," Zabaleta said.
"For the last few years, it (World Cup qualification) has not been just about Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Players from Venezuela, Paraguay and Chile have made it to Europe too, which only shows that footballing standards in South America have increased by leaps and bounds."
Argentina and England may have shared a love-hate relationship since Diego Maradona's 'Hand of God' goal during the quarterfinals of the 1986 World Cup between the two countries, but Zabaleta said he was yet to face any problem during his stint with the Manchester City.
"I've been playing in England for last four years and honestly, I've always felt that the Englishmen have given me the respect I deserve. Also, I can speak decent English, so chances of me facing any problem is a little less," he said.
Asked about India, Zabaleta said they were overwhelmed by the euphoria generated by Messi.
"It's a populous country and we knew it's not football but cricket which is more popular here. But we are still hopeful that there will be plenty of people in the stadium to cheer us. The scenes at the airport were truly amazing when Messi landed. Our only motto is to show people that Argentina is a very good team," he said.