Diego Maradona has said that Lionel Messi is "not guilty of anything" as Argentina face a potential first World Cup group-stage exit since 2002.
A 1-1 draw with Iceland in their Group D opener was followed by a shock 3-0 thumping at the hands of Croatia, meaning the two-time winners must beat Nigeria in their final match on Tuesday to have any chance of progressing.
Messi missed a second-half penalty in that draw with Iceland and cut an isolated figure as his side slumped to a heavy defeat in their second game.
The Barcelona star has come under criticism for his muted displays, but Maradona – who managed Messi at the 2010 World Cup – insists he is not responsible for Argentina's struggles.
"To Leo, I would like to talk to you and tell you that you are not guilty of anything, of absolutely nothing," he said during a TV appearance on Telesur.
"I love you as always, I respect you as always.
"For me, you have played an exceptional World Cup [in South Africa 2010]."