Flashscore interview with César Luis Menotti: "Mbappé is now better than Messi"

Flashscore interview with César Luis Menotti: 'Mbappe is now better than Messi'
Flashscore interview with César Luis Menotti: 'Mbappe is now better than Messi'
Flashscore interview with César Luis Menotti: 'Mbappe is now better than Messi'
In the noisy and vibrant microcentre of Buenos Aires, every day you can recognise a familiar silhouette sipping a coffee at the usual bar. It is César Luis Menotti, former player, 1978 World Cup winning selector for Argentina and currently general director of that team, a position he has held since January 2019. When it comes to football, few voices are as authoritative as his. Nostalgic of the times when football was not just a business, the Argentine analyses the atmosphere in his country ahead of the great World Cup final against France, the team that, for him, has the strongest player of the moment. Even more so than Messi.

Are you following the World Cup in Qatar?

From 1970 to 2018 I saw all the World Cups locally, travelling. The first time in Mexico in 1970 I went with the little means I had, because I had no money. But this year I decided not to go to Qatar, because for me it is not a suitable setting for a World Cup. The World Cup should be played in Italy, in Argentina, in Germany... Watching champions like Messi play in Qatar is like watching Astor Piazzolla giving a concert in a neighbourhood bar. It's a very sad World Cup, I'm not enjoying this spectacle. Qatar lacks the cultural context to really appreciate what football has to offer.

It's a question of acoustics, we could say.
Exactly. Imagine a real stadium, with real fans. People in Qatar are not football fans, they are people who consume business. Who consume whatever product is put in front of them. But the acoustics of a theatre like the Colón (a historic venue in Buenos Aires) are not like those of a neighbourhood bar. And quality music needs quality acoustics. The same applies to football. And those who watch World Cup games are simply an audience, not a group of spectators. This is an important distinction. These are not people who actually enjoy the game. Also because, let's be honest, football fans are not rich. Those who are in Qatar today are tourists who spend their time watching the games.

Your Argentina seems to have finally hit its stride.
I keep thinking about music. Football is like music, the first thing you need in an orchestra are the musicians, who must be good. But if the score is mediocre, even the good musicians suffer. Argentina has quality musicians and found a conductor, Scaloni, who understood what the characteristics of his musicians were and managed to create a compact and in tune orchestra. But far be it from me to think that Argentina is the best orchestra in the world. It is a finely tuned orchestra that has a quantum leap in an exceptional individualist, who is obviously Messi. Who, however, could not do it alone.

What instrument does Messi play?
All of them. He is the great musician Argentina has.

What World Cup is he watching?
Football is experiencing an astonishing decline. It is the first time in the history of the World Cup that you don't know the players in the teams. Before you knew that Germany had Beckenbauer, today who knows the leader of Germany? Apart from Messi, Modric and Mbappé, how many are really known? And all this is a consequence of the fact that national teams are not a business.

Have you noticed any tactical progress in this World Cup?
No. Coaches define their conception of football through four parameters: defence, ball recovery, management and definition. It's very difficult to develop more than one characteristic at the highest level. However, it's simple: the most important thing in football is the ball. For example, the Brazil of the 70s, the one with the five number 10s, practically didn't need people to recover because the team played in a tight space. That World Cup was my first and I saw it thanks to my father-in-law, who gave me a Diners card. That Brazil was an unbeatable and unrepeatable team, the best team I have ever seen in my life.

Today is it more important to recover the ball or defend?
It's not always necessary to have interdiction players, as Clodoaldo was for Santos and Brazil, because to recover you can use a space-reducing technique. So, I think defending is much more difficult, because to recover you can also risk a foul, but the moment you defend closer to the area, you run the risk of taking a penalty. Besides, today there's too much talk about schemes, 4-3-3, 4-4-2, for me they're just phone numbers. I remember Pelé once asked the journalists: "How can you define our tactics by 4-4-2?".

Speaking of Pelé, Brazil's tumble was resounding.
Brazil have been going through a difficult period for some time now. And now that it has no leader, it has failed to make up for its lack of technical objectivity. In addition, Neymar is not living his best moment. The same has happened with Uruguay. The representativeness of the national team has been lost. Too many games with the clubs and too little commitment in the concentrations or training camps. And this crisis is manifested in the elimination of Germany and also in the absence of Italy.

Eight years later, Argentina are back in the final. Playing in Doha is not the same as playing in Rio de Janeiro...
This is where you can see the decadence of football. Winning at the Maracana would have been something completely different.

There is a lot of talk here in Argentina about the "maradonisation" of Messi, both for what he has done on the pitch and what he does off it.
They have nothing to do with each other. Also because I coached Diego for six years, and before he became addicted to cocaine, he was always a gentleman with everyone. Then things went the way they did. The difference between the two is one of character. Messi is naive, he doesn't have the character of the man on the street. Now, at 35, he's starting to have certain behaviours that he never had. But Messi is not from Argentina, he went to live in Barcelona when he was 12. After the game with the Netherlands he did that little theatrical thing....

The final will be against France.
The team I've enjoyed the most so far in terms of their game. For me it's the best national team in the current World Cup. They have a creative and free play, it's a kind of orchestra that reminds me of football from a long time ago. Griezmann is a player from another era, and I see him happy when he plays for the national team.

The star, however, is Kylian Mbappé.
He is a machine. They say he makes too many feints and too many moves, but I don't mind, I like him and for me he plays very well. Today he is the best player in the world. Today, in a team, Mbappé offers something more than Messi. He is brave, he is crafty, he invents moves....

How do you see Sunday's game?
It has the potential to be a great game. Difficult for both teams.

I said France were the team I liked the most. But the support for Argentina must be unconditional...
Of course, but I wouldn't like them to win without deserving it. I don't get excited about winning if there's no merit. And deserving comes from being better on the pitch, being honourable, not cheating, not speculating. Not being miserable. Here in Argentina we all grew up with the happiness of being able to kick a ball. Today everything is a business, but we mustn't forget where we come from. I want Argentina to play well. And if I have to explain what playing well is, it means that those who ask me are not football fans.