Diego Maradona feels Lionel Messi does not have to prove anything to Argentina as the Barcelona superstar prepares for what could be his last World Cup.
Argentina reached the final in Brazil four years ago but were narrowly defeated by Germany, with Mario Gotze scoring the only goal in extra time.
Maradona inspired Argentina to glory the last time they won the World Cup, in Mexico in 1986, while he captained the side as they lost in the final four years later.
But Messi has been unable to spark a comparable triumph, seeing his side beaten three times in major finals, the forward temporarily retiring from international duty after the Copa America Centenario defeat to Chile in 2016.
Messi’s assessment is that Argentina are not one of the leading contenders for the title at Russia 2018, but while Maradona is not backing La Albiceleste either, it is for a different reason.
“I would advise Messi to keep playing, to enjoy the game,” Maradona told Omnisport.
“He has to forget about the critics if he can win the World Cup or not.
“He doesn’t have to demonstrate anything. He has to enjoy the game on the field.
“I don’t know [coach Jorge] Sampaoli, I don’t know how he plays. But, I know a lot of the players and I know they will give everything.
“And I think they have a good opportunity to win. But I don’t choose [Argentina] as a favourite because the favourite one never wins.”
Messi and Maradona are often compared but former Argentina international Hernan Crespo does not believe it is useful to pit the duo against each other.
“It’s is useless to compare them because we need to enjoy it,” Crespo told Omnisport. “Maradona and Messi are both Argentineans and it is incredible that they had such huge impact on the football history.
“It is obvious that the social impact Maradona had will never be seen again. It’s not about winning trophies, and it is what it is. Regarding Messi, his impact’s been in terms of football itself, there is a ‘before’ and ‘after-Messi’.
“So then, why should we compare them? We just need to enjoy them.”
Having beaten Haiti 4-0 in their opening pre-World Cup friendly, Messi scoring a hat-trick, Argentina are next in action against Israel on Friday.