Carlos Tevez defends Lionel Messi against Argentina critics

Boca Juniors forward Carlos Tevez came out in defence of his Argentina teammate Lionel Messi in the latest chapter of that country's debate over criticism towards the Barcelona striker based upon the Albiceleste's international failures.

The four-time Ballon d'Or winner was criticised last month by some in the Argentine media following his team's penalty shootout defeat to hosts Chile in this summer's Copa America final, with even former Argentina coach Diego Maradona questioning his performances.

"If I were Messi and had to listen to the criticism he has had, I would not return," Tevez said. "He has to really love the Argentine shirt to keep coming back."

Messi, 28, has won every available trophy for Barca but has yet to win a trophy with the senior Argentina side.

Tevez came down hard on the journalists in Argentina that started the debate and said that the criticism "has to hurt [Messi] because it also hurts his family."

Tevez said: "You can criticise a player who didn't play well or who wasn't fit for a match but you can't say he doesn't step up or say awful things outside of football about him as they have, you just can't. As a journalist, you have to give a message each day. You can be in agreement or not, you can like a player or not like him, but you can't kill him like that."

Tevez also defended his teammates on the national team, saying that he was convinced that they would win the Copa America in Chile and admitted the defeated was a huge blow.

"If we had lifted ourselves up with just 20 percent more of what we already had, we would have won the Cup," Tevez said. "It was a huge blow. Look, I have been through difficult moments but regarding the national team, he has been through the worst."

Martino, who also coached Messi at Barca, said earlier this week that he regrets previous comments he made saying that he "would have stopped playing with the national team a long time ago" if he had faced such criticism.

"It was something imprudent," Martino said. "I should not have said it. It is my opinion, but I should not have said it out loud."

Messi, Tevez and Manchester City's Sergio Aguerov were all included in the Argentina 24-man squad recall for September friendlies in the United States against Bolivia and Mexico.