BEIJING: Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi said Thursday he was sad to see national coach Diego Maradona go, but that the football legend`s sacking was just part of the game.
Messi is in the Chinese capital with Spanish champions Barcelona for a friendly on Sunday against reigning Chinese Super League titleholders Beijing Guoan at the Bird`s Nest stadium.
"I certainly did not want Maradona to leave. I believed then that he would stay. But maybe that is just football," Messi told a packed news conference.
The diminutive Argentine forward -- who scored two goals against a team of K-League All-Stars in Seoul on Wednesday -- refused to speculate when asked to rate his national team`s chances at the next World Cup in 2014 in Brazil.
"There are four years to go. We have a lot of work to do. It is too early to talk about winning the championship," said the 23-year-old Barca playmaker, who failed to score in South Africa despite 30 shots at goal.
Last month in South Africa, Messi and Maradona`s World Cup ended in bitter disappointment as Argentina were humbled 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals.
Maradona was subsequently sacked last week after just 18 months in the job, but a spokesman for Argentina`s national football association has said he is on the list of candidates to fill the new coaching position.
The spokesman, Ernesto Cherquis Bialo, said the name of the new coach would be announced in October.
BDST: 1639 HRS, AUGUST 05, 2010