What Diego Maradona has said about Lionel Messi and the World Cup is spot on

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The 2018 World Cup will probably be the last real chance for Lionel Messi to claim the trophy - and that's a pretty big deal.

He'll be 31-years-old by the time this tournament finishes, 35 by the end of the next, and so if he's going to end any debate over whether or not he's the best in history, this is the year.

Pele established himself as the greatest after being the lynchpin for three World Cup victories with Brazil, only for the 1986 World Cup to throw up a contender for the crown.

Diego Maradona, the personification of Argentinian football, would famously win the trophy virtually on his own and set a new gold standard for football's greatest.

It's why Messi, despite everything he has done in the game, simply won't go down as Argentina's pinnacle unless he can do what Diego did.

Even with the records, the five Ballon d'Or wins, the Champions League victories, La Liga titles, and virtually being a one-man revolution of the sport, there will always be doubts from many corners over Messi's status as the best.

But on an individual level, surely he's proven all he can? If he's relying on his teammates to help him win the World Cup, then that's not exactly a reflection of him as a player - it's not his fault Higuain missed that chance in the 2014 final.

But Pele and Maradona remain on top for people simply because winning the World Cup is still the most important thing in football.

Unless you ask Maradona himself, that is.

"I would advise Messi to keep playing, to enjoy the game," Maradona told Omnisport after a charity match.

Diego Maradona

"He has to forget about the critics, if he can win or not the World Cup, the Champions [League] or the Copa del Rey.

"He doesn't have to demonstrate anything. He has to enjoy the game into the field."

It's perhaps easy for Maradona to say that considering he won the trophy and is already considered the greatest ever - although he does believe that enjoying playing is the main trait he shares with Messi.

"He is left footed, he likes playing," he explained. "I am 57 and just come from playing football, look at me - I am dead.

Argentina's coach Diego Maradona (R) spe

"But, I still want to kick the ball. And I think concerning that we are very much the same."

And in one last comment, the Argentina and Napoli legend gave his thoughts on Messi and his country's hopes this summer.

"I think they have a good opportunity to win," he said.

"But I don't choose [Argentina] as a favourite because the favourite one never wins."

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Lionel Messi
Brazil Football
Argentina Football
Diego Maradona
World Cup
La Liga

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