Diego Maradona advised compatriot Lionel Messi to ignore critics who have challenged the Barcelona star and five-time Ballon d’Or winner to prove his standing as one of the greats by claiming the World Cup with Argentina.
Messi has won everything on offer at club level, helping Barca to numerous La Liga and Champions League titles among others.
But a senior trophy with Argentina is all that is missing from Messi’s remarkable career, having fallen in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany, not to mention three runner-up medals in the Copa America.
However, Maradona – who inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986 – believes the 30-year-old does not have to prove anything.
“I would advise Messi to keep playing, to enjoy the game,” Maradona told Omnisport, speaking courtesy of Hublot.
“He has to forget about the critics, if he can win or not the World Cup, the Champions or the Copa del Rey.
“He doesn’t have to demonstrate anything. He has to enjoy the game into the field.”
On comparisons with Messi, Napoli and Barcelona great Maradona added: “He is left footed, he likes playing. I am 57 and just come from playing football, look at me … I am dead.
“But, I still want to kick the ball. And I think concerning that we are very much the same.”
Argentina’s hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time since 1986 will rest largely on the shoulders of Messi in Russia.
Jorge Sampaoli’s Argentina, who struggled in the qualification phase, will face Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria at the showpiece tournament.
“I don’t know Sampaoli, I don’t know how he plays. But, I know a lot of players and I know they will give everything. And I think they have a good opportunity to win,” Maradona said.
“But I don’t choose [Argentina] as a favourite because the favourite one never wins.”