BUENOS AIRES – Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona said compatriot Lionel Messi did not deserve to be named best player of the World Cup, arguing it should have gone to Colombia’s James Rodriguez.
“I would give Lio the sky, but when it’s not deserved and it’s just marketers who want to make him win something he didn’t win, it’s unfair,” Maradona said Sunday after Argentina lost the World Cup final to Germany 1-0.
“Rodriguez was the best player of the World Cup,” said Maradona on his TV program “De Zurda,” which is broadcast by Venezuelan network Telesur and retransmitted in several Latin American countries.
The 23-year-old Rodriguez was the revelation of the World Cup and the top scorer with six goals.
Messi dazzled in the group stage with four goals, but failed to score in his last four games, including the final.
Maradona said Messi himself did not seem to feel he deserved the trophy.
“It looked like he didn’t want to take it,” he said.
But Maradona praised Argentina and said the match could have gone either way.
“I’m sad about Mario Goetze’s (game-winning) goal,” he said. “But we can’t forget that we took this World Cup step by step. If we had scored (Gonzalo) Higuain’s (disallowed) goal we would be partying. Germany were not dominant.”
Maradona, 53, was Messi’s childhood idol and is his rival for the title of greatest-ever Argentine player.
To many fans, the 27-year-old Barcelona striker still needs to add a World Cup win to his resume to match the greatness of Maradona, who led his team to the title in 1986.
Scolari steps down
Sao Paulo — Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari resigned after the team failed to win the World Cup, the Brazilian Football Confederation said Monday.
Scolari promised to win the tournament at home, but Brazil was eliminated in the semifinals by a disastrous 7-1 loss to eventual champion Germany that matched the national team’s worst defeat in its 100-year history. Brazil also lost 3-0 to the Netherlands in the third-place match.
Scolari’s contract ended after the World Cup and he handed over the command of the team after Saturday’s match, saying it would be up to the confederation to decide whether he would remain at the helm of the five-time world champions.
In a statement, the confederation said President Jose Maria Marin accepted what it called “Scolari’s resignation.”
“Scolari and his staff deserve our respect and our gratitude,” the statement said. “They were responsible for making the Brazilian people regain their love for the Selecao even though we did not reach our greater goal (of winning the title).”
Scolari’s replacement was not immediately announced. Assistant Carlos Alberto Parreira, the coach who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup title, was also leaving.
Ticket exec arrested
Rio de Janeiro — A British World Cup ticketing executive accused of involvement with a scalping network blamed for fraud worth tens of millions of dollars turned himself in on Monday after a manhunt, authorities said.
Ray Whelan, a director of FIFA partner Match Services, who had left his Rio hotel before police could detain him last Thursday, surrendered to a judge in the city, prosecutor Marcus Kac told AFP.
Police confirmed Whelan, 64, had been detained after turning himself in to examining magistrate Rosita Maria de Oliveira Netto.
Authorities had been looking for Whelan after a judge ordered him and 10 other suspects to be held over a World Cup ticket fraud involving 1,000 tickets per match alleged to be worth tens of millions of dollars.
The group allegedly began its activities at the 2002 World Cup.
Match Services AG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Byrom plc, a British-based company that has provided services to FIFA and World Cup Local Organizing Committees since 1994.
Attempts by the company to mount legal challenges to the arrest order foundered.
Whelan had already been detained by Brazilian police last Monday, but was released the following day after paying 5,000 reais ($2,260) in bail.
Police believe Whelan distributed free VIP tickets originally earmarked for non-governmental organizations, sponsors and players’ relatives for resale via intermediaries.