THIERRY HENRY has hit back at ‘ludicrous’ criticism of Lionel Messi that he “walked back to defend” during the Champions League win against Dynamo Kiev.
The Argentine six-time Ballon d’Or winner was criticised after footage emerged of him walking back as the Ukrainians looked for a late equaliser in the 2-1 midweek Champions League win for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry during their time at Barcelona[/caption]
Messi also had his commitment and desire questioned in the 8-2 demolition job in the quarter-final win for Bayern Munich last season.
But Henry, a former team-mate of Messi’s at Barcelona, said: “Yeah maybe in one game he’s tired, and so what?
“We’re talking about a guy that scored more goals than he played games. People forget that we’re not machines.
“In the Clasico, five or six times he went to tackle someone by the corner flag, but that doesn’t make the news – that’s when I just don’t get it. We’re still talking about that.
“If you want to find some stuff, there is one guy you have to leave alone. Leave him alone. Because when he is not going to be on the field, we’re all going to cry.
“I understand that you need to sell stuff and you need to make stories, but not this guy. Seriously. I played with Leo, this is not the guy you need to attack.
“This is what I don’t understand – and he gets his credit, don’t get me wrong – but sometimes picking on the guy just for the sake of picking on the guy.
“What he has done for football, what he has done for Barcelona, it’s second to none.
“So I don’t understand when people question his desire. This is what bothers me. Sometimes guys pushed the ball by me and I walked!
“It wasn’t because of desire, sometimes I was tired, sometimes I just couldn’t do it, my brain wasn’t following me, it can happen or not happen.
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“But how can you question the desire of Leo Messi? Really!? It’s just, for me, ludicrous. When I hear that I’m like, ‘What? Are we questioning his desire?!’
“You can be bad, yes he can do better – well, I don’t even know if he can do more than he does – but questioning his desire? Please. Leo Messi is just an animal. Assists, passes, forget about it, we can stay all day.
“It’s pretty simple for me: just enjoy the guy while he’s there and stop complaining about stuff that he doesn’t do. It doesn’t happen often, let’s be honest, but like I said, if there is a guy that deserves a pass, it’s him.”
Henry was being interviewed on CBS Sports podcast Que Golazo.
Messi and Henry were team-mates at the Nou Camp for three years after the France World Cup winner joined Barca from Arsenal in 2007.
The Argentine is set to leave Barcelona next summer, with Manchester City favourites to sign him.
Barca boss Ronald Koeman has also defended Messi.
He said: “You can get an image of a player when he walks. I haven’t seen it and I’m not interested.
“My thoughts on his attitude are very good. I don’t agree with the idea of creating controversy.
“If with a 2-1 lead and in the 93rd minute you get an image of him walking – you cannot be more attentive to the images than to the work.”