Gerard Piqué stokes Messi-Maradona flames ahead of Barcelona-Napoli match: 'I choose ... Messi'

Gerard Piqué had his teammate's back ahead of a matchup against Maradona's former team. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Gerard Piqué is taking sides in the long-standing Lionel Messi-Diego Maradona debate.

Not surprisingly, he’s going with his teammate.

The Barcelona defender talked about the two Argentinean soccer icons on Monday ahead of his team’s Champions League match against Napoli.

‘Maradona has given a lot to the sport,’ but ...

“Everything has already been said about Maradona, he is a unique player who has given a lot to the sport,” Piqué told reporters. “He went to Barcelona and also to Napoli. He will be remembered forever.

“If, however, you ask me for a comparison between Maradona and Leo, I choose the consistency of Messi, considering his magic for so many years.”

While the stance is far from controversial in an objective conversation about soccer talent, it’s sure to stoke the flames of a long-standing debate in Argentina, where Maradona is adored for his outsized personality and delivery of the 1986 World Cup to his home country.

Messi is inarguably one of the greatest players of all time. But thanks to his nearly lifelong association with Barcelona and lack of World Cup success representing Argentina, he doesn’t hold the same affinity with Argentina as Maradona does.

Shot at Napoli fans?

Intended or not, Piqué’s opinion promises to rile up Napoli fans as well, as Barcelona prepares to visit Napoli on Tuesday in the Round of 16.

As in Argentina, Maradona holds a special place in the hearts of Napoli fans after lifting the club to relevance during his stint with the team in the late 1980s, a run that included multiple Serie A championships.

Maradona is beloved. There’s not much upside in taking sides against him.

But Piqué can’t be blamed for sticking with his teammate.

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