Diego Maradona has declared that Lionel Messi did not deserve to be chosen as the best player of the 2014 World Cup, suggesting the Argentina forward won the award for marketing reasons.
A dejected Messi picked up FIFA's Golden Ball for outstanding player of the tournament moments after Germany forward Mario Gotze's extra-time winner condemned Argentina to defeat in the World Cup final.
Messi had scored four goals in the group stages but failed to maintain his level of performance in the knock-out rounds, particularly against Germany and against Holland in the semi-final, which Argentina won on penalties.
"I would give heaven and earth to Leo, but when marketing people want him to win something he didn't (deserve to) win, it is unfair," said Maradona, the winner of the Golden Ball when Argentina won the World Cup in 1986.
"I could see that he didn't want to go up and collect it (the award)."
Barcelona star Messi is a prominent ambassador for sportswear manufacturer adidas, also an official FIFA partner.
Speaking on the final edition of his World Cup television programme De Zurda, Maradona said Colombia's James Rodriguez, who won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the tournament, was his choice for the Golden Ball.
Germany have now beaten Argentina in each of the last three World Cups, thrashing a side coached by Maradona 4-0 in 2010.
But on this occasion, the former Argentina captain said there was little to choose between the two teams.
"We raised our flag high, there's no doubt about that," he said.
"Germany won due to a misunderstanding in the defence but at no point were they better than us. They showed us a lot of respect, and our lads earned that out on the pitch."
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella disagreed, saying Messi's Golden Ball award as the player of the World Cup was richly deserved despite defeat in the final.
Sabella said the Barcelona forward is already among the true greats of the game: "He deserves it because he played an extraordinary World Cup," said Sabella.
"He was a fundamental factor in the team making it to the final, along with everything done by his other team-mates.
"The World Cup is a highly demanding tournament and as for his reputation, he is in that pantheon among the greats. But he was there before - he has been there for quite some time."
Sabella admitted that his side had paid the price for missing chances - as well as Messi, Gonzalo Higuain passed up a glorious opportunity, while Germany triumphed in extra-time via Mario Gotze's volley.
Sabella added: "The players are bitter and sad because we had a huge dream having made it all the way to the final. We needed to be more clinical and I am sad just like the players.
"Beyond the pain of the defeat in the final they can look themselves in the eyes and say they gave everything for Argentina.
"We have an extraordinary group of players, these were warriors. I congratulated the players because they left every drop of sweat out on the field. They gave their all.
"I am very proud, the boys played an extraordinary World Cup and improved as they advantages through the stages and they gave everything for the Argentina jersey.
"I think that this was a very tough match, Germany started better and handled the ball well and is a great team.
"The match had its up and downs but we had the clearer chances. I congratulate my players for their extraordinary work and congratulations to Germany on the title."
Sabella also refused to be drawn on his future.
He said: "I cannot speak about the future, the future for me now is to be with the players and my people - the coaches and my family - and to rest a bit. I don't know what to say about the future."