RIO DE JANEIRO: A war of words has erupted between old Brazilian World Cup-winner Romario and the father of Argentinan would-be world champion Leo Messi writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The South American neighbours have long been among the most bitter of rivals with Brazil having won the World Cup times to Argentina’s two and with constant exchanges about the comparable merits of their greatest modern players, Pele and Diego Maradona.

Romario took the rivalry a step further last week when heĀ suggested that Messi’s formidable focus out on the pitch suggested that he suffered from a slight form of autism. This gave him, according to Romario, “the gift of concentration levels superior to other players.”

Romario has followed an independent agenda on sports issue during his second career as a member of the Brazilian congress. He has been a persistent and noisy critic of world federation FIFA and the Brazilian football confederation over administrative and financial arrangements for next year’s World Cup.


That campaign backfired when Romario lost his six-month-old presidency of the parliamentary sport and tourism commission because the CBF refused to send a delegate while he was in the chair.

His comments about Messi caused a stir in Brazil and Argentina and also in Spain where the world player of the year stars for Barcelona. Only tyhe weekend before last Messi scored a first-half hat-trick (against Valencia) equalling a feat achieved in the last 20 years for the club only by Romario himself and Cameroonian Samuel Eto’o.

Romario returned to Twitter to announce that Messi’s father “is going to sue for saying this.”

He then attempted to clarify his comments by insisting that they were not critical. Quite the opposite. According to Romario, “both Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton had a degree of autism which did not prevent them achieving greatness.”

He wished only that Messi, similarly, should continue “scoring his beautiful goals.”