Lionel Messi seeks ultimate prize with World Cup win

Apr 29 2014, 16:09 IST
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Lionel Messi is inevitably compared with Diego Maradona, who inspired the nation to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. (Reuters) Lionel Messi is inevitably compared with Diego Maradona, who inspired the nation to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. (Reuters)
SummaryLionel Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to glory on the World Cup stage and build on his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

After a spectacular haul of trophies with Barcelona, Lionel Messi has a chance to lead Argentina to glory on the World Cup stage and build on his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

The four-times World Player of the Year has won a glittering array of club silverware and has established himself as one of the finest footballers to grace the game, but some believe he must win the World Cup before he can be hailed as a true great.

Many others believe, at the age of 26 - he turns 27 during the tournament on June 24 - he already has.

Messi is inevitably compared with Diego Maradona, who inspired the nation to victory at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and will travel to Brazil with considerable expectation on his shoulders.

A lot will depend on how well he copes with the pressure and with his shrugs off an out-of-character indifferent spell towards the end of the Spanish season.

At Barcelona he was a carefree youngster who came through the youth ranks earning plenty of praise but it never went to his head. He enjoyed playing football, that was his outlet to express himself and his confidence on the pitch was in marked contrast to his generally shy personality.

Whether there were millions watching around the world, it didn't seem to matter to him as he was self-absorbed in outwitting the opposition with his trickery.

Now in his mid-twenties and a father to an infant son, he carries the responsibility of being the talisman for Barcelona and he is at a club where the fans worship him for what he has already delivered.

It is different story for the Albiceleste. During a fruitful qualifying campaign, when he netted 10 goals, Argentines warmed to him but still Messi has to measure up to Maradona.

The former Argentina captain and coach is an idol in his native country as many identify with him, the boy who emerged from the slums and restored national pride, notably with the two goals that knocked out England in the quarter-finals in Mexico in 1986.

Messi will never have that connection with the fans, having been brought up in Spain after clubs back home allowed him to slip through their fingers.

It was the Catalan side that put their faith in him as a 13-year-old and paid for him to have the growth hormone treatment that he needed to realise his full potential.

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