This summer's World Cup stage will give Lionel Messi the platform he needs to gain revenge for the disappointment of his 2010 tournament, according to Argentina legend Diego Maradona.
Speaking to Argentine newspaper La Nacion, per Luis Ampuero of Reuters (h/t Daily Mail), ahead of Argentina's international friendly against Romania on Wednesday, the 1986 World Cup-winner said Barcelona's talisman will be eager to right those wrongs:
Messi had an exceptional World Cup with me... and no-one said so. (Was it) because he didn’t score? He turned all the goalkeepers into stars. I approached him and told him he’d have many World Cups to get revenge. I said it with all my heart. While the rest were thinking about our return (home) he was there, head bowed, crying.
For Leo it will be a test of character, to bring out all that crying he has in his heart. Brazil can be his great revenge.
Maradona was manager of La Albiceleste during that fruitless tournament, where they were ousted by Germany 4-0 in the quarter-finals.
Irrespective of the success, or lack thereof, that Messi has had or will go on to have in World Cup competition, Maradona doesn't believe a winner's medal is needed in order for the forward to prove his credentials, adding:
Messi doesn’t need to win the World Cup to be the best player in the world. (If he did) it would be great for Argentina, the fans and Leo, but (winning) a World Cup or not won’t take away any of his achievements up to now to be among the greatest.
As of yet, Messi's greatest achievement with the national team remains the gold medal that he won as part of the team that travelled to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.
It's of significant contrast to his trophy cabinet at the club level, which already boasts six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, two Spanish Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups and more.
Not to mention the fact that the four-time Ballon d'Or winner has picked up a myriad of individual awards along the way, leading his nation to pin their World Cup hopes almost entirely on his shoulders.
The Independent's Kevin Garside recently raised the question as to whether there was any stopping the forward, hinting that current Argentina manager Alejandro Sabella could have more luck than Maradona:
How to stop Messi? Germany 4 Argentina 0 World Cup 2010, mind u Maradona was running that ship— Kevin Garside (@GARSIDEK) February 17, 2014
The World Cup is certainly not the sole hallmark of a magnificent talent, with Al Jazeera's Matteo Bonetti recently making note of those great players who have missed out on the award while other, less respected individuals have managed to succeed:
World Cup Wins: Paolo Maldini 0. Lionel Messi 0. Cristiano Ronaldo 0. Marco Amelia 1.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) January 29, 2014
That being said, it's inevitable that critics look upon this particular empty space in the trophy cabinet as a missed opportunity for the star concerned.
In a way, Maradona's comments only help in heaping yet more pressure upon his dazzling compatriot, now living the life he once knew as his own.
The former Argentina boss clearly wants Messi to experience the same ecstasy that he did 28 years ago, but the increasing speculation could ultimately backfire in the shape of another falling short of the mark.