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Lionel Messi Doesn't Need a World Cup to Prove Himself, Says Brazil Legend Zico

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistDecember 28, 2018

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 22: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta de Vigo at Camp Nou on December 22, 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Lionel Messi will be remembered as one of the world's best footballers whether he wins a World Cup or not, says Brazilian legend Zico. 

Barcelona phenomenon Messi has won just about every major trophy in football, but the closest he's come to clinching the biggest prize of all was a runner-up finish at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, Zico told Omnisport (h/t Goal) it's a player's body of work that shows their quality:

Goal @goal

Lionel Messi does not need to win a World Cup to be the best player ever to play the game. Discuss. https://t.co/pzmnO91xvk

Zico is regarded as one of the best footballers to have played the game and is fifth on Brazil's all-time scorer list. He also failed to win a World Cup during his career—the closest he came was finishing third in 1978—but said one trophy wouldn't decide how people look back on Messi's career:

"It is not a frustration. People nowadays think only of achievements. I think that your career, your work is the most important. 

"Football is a collective sport and many times it doesn't depend on you playing well. It depends if the team is playing well. Sometimes you decide games, but you can't decide a competition. So, Messi's merit is not undone because he hasn't won a World Cup. 

"[Johan] Cruyff didn't win any World Cup and was one of the great players of history, and he will always be. And many others the same."

He added: "Football is a collective game, not an individual game."

It's strange that Argentina's talisman should receive such reassurance from a Brazilian icon given the rivalry between the neighbouring countries, but Zico empathises having missed out on a World Cup himself.

Football writer Manuel Veth also recently demonstrated the catalogue of other titles Messi has won, which includes a gold medal with his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, just the second time Argentina had won that prize:

Manuel Veth @ManuelVeth

@carpenter_james The World Cup chase. To limit Messi's individual talent to his success with Argentina is somewhat unfair when looking at his overall titles. In fact, look at that national team, like Ovechkin with Washington, he has carried the team beyond its means. https://t.co/yZgNIsW5yN

Zico praised Messi and fellow five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo for their unselfish nature and explained a team-based attitude is what creates such successful individuals, per Perform (h/t AS):

"Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi never ever stop playing for the team.

"If I were young today, they are players on which I would mirror myself. Players of this level, play for the team.

"Players that are the best because they prepared themselves to bet. You don't see these players going out, on social media, skipping training to be in parties.

"They take care of themselves in order to have a good individual performance, but they know that this benefits their clubs."

It's not for a lack of trying that Messi hasn't won a World Cup, either. He dazzled en route to Argentina's silver medal in 2014 and showcased his determination to make the difference for his side in Russia this past summer, per OptaJoe:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

11 – Lionel Messi attempted 11 shots for Argentina vs Iceland (the most he’s ever attempted in a World Cup game), but he still didn’t manage to score a goal. Frustration. #ARGISL #ARG #WorldCup https://t.co/YDZBP9aowj

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar is scheduled to begin in November that year, at which point Messi will be 35 years of age and surely competing in his last such tournament (if Argentina qualify and he's still playing).

Winning on football's biggest stage would serve as a fine way to round off Messi's career, but Zico assures the star failure to do so also won't besmirch his glittering record in any way.

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