Lionel Messi's ability is unquestionable.
He is currently, by some margin, the best player in the world.
However, following Argentina's comprehensive dismissal from the World Cup at the hands of Germany, there are still question marks over whether the Barcelona superstar will ever surpass Maradona's legacy.
Within Argentina, there is talk of Messi underachieving on the international stage. This is understandable when considering his exploits at club level. In terms of club honours, Leo, as Barca fans have dubbed him, has already surpassed Maradona.
At the tender age of 23, the diminutive winger has already amassed four league titles and two Champions Leagues.
Maradona had a more innocuous club record, notching three league titles and a UEFA Cup. He did, however, achieve the greatest feat in world football in winning the World Cup in 1986, as well as reaching the final a second time in 1990.
Regardless of Messi's club exploits, it may be difficult for him to move out of Maradona's shadow without emulating his World Cup success. Messi, like so many other superstars, failed to score in South Africa, but that shouldn't detract from his overall performance. He was involved in almost every Argentine goal and can't be expected to take the blame for their undoing at the hands of the Germans.
Argentina's reverence for Maradona could, at times, be said to cloud their judgement of their hero's coaching ability. While Messi is given positive reinforcement on a regular basis at club level, Maradona's support has been far from unwavering.
His comment that Javier Mascherano was “more Argentinian” than Messi or play maker extraordinaire, Juan Riquelme, is far from the kind of endorsement Messi is accustomed to. That comment led to Riquelme's refusal to play under the current boss and, as a result, a distinct lack of creativity in the South Americans' midfield.
Unlike Argentina, where most of the talent lies in attack, at Barcelona, Messi has the likes of Xavi and Andrés Iniesta to support his attacking forays. A serious dearth in midfield—partly due to the baffling exclusion of Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti—was exposed during the Germany game and try as he might, even Messi cannot carry Argentina single-handedly.
Messi may never be able to compete with Maradona's international pedigree, but it is not necessarily through any fault of his own.
International success must not dictate a player's legacy, as Ryan Giggs would attest to. Even if Messi never reaches the level of adulation within Argentina that Maradona enjoys, he is well on his way to becoming the greatest player of all time.
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