Riquelme stands by Argentina decision

BUENOS AIRES - Argentina's 2006 World Cup playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme has expressed his disappointment at missing out this year's finals in South Africa but maintains he was right to turn his back on coach Diego Maradona.

Riquelme has not played for Argentina since Maradona took charge in late 2008 and although he quit the team when the coach criticised aspects of his game in public, the gifted player insisted that was not the sole reason for his self-imposed exile.

"I feel good with what I did. There were reports that I had stepped aside over a comment by the coach and I say: 'One has to be pretty stupid to stay out of a World Cup over a remark'," Riquelme told Fox Sports on Monday.

"This goes deeper, there's another question," said Riquelme, adding that he would never reveal the true motives of his problems with Maradona.

"We can't work together. It's my way of being and there are things I can understand and others I can't. Every day that passes, I feel calm because I did the right thing.

"(But) when I see the team lining up on the pitch, apart from always wanting the national team to win... I'm going to feel very sad and I'll say to myself: 'I should be there'."

The Boca Juniors midfielder, who helped Argentina reach the quarter-finals in Germany four years ago, said this year's squad could win the World Cup because they had Lionel Messi, "the best player of all."

But Messi would need the team's help to play to his full potential as he does for Barcelona.

"Today Lionel is a unique player of the kind that might never emerge again. That's why they must help him so he's decisive. For Messi to do what he does at Barca, the lads are going to have to help him a lot," the 31-year-old Riquelme said.

Argentina, winners in 1978 and 1986, meet Nigeria, South Korea and Greece in Group B at the finals starting on June 11.

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