Diego Maradona has claimed that Barcelona ace Lionel Messi will go down as a true "phenomenon" of the sport even if he fails to lead Argentina to a World Cup crown.
The 29-year-old has already fallen narrowly short of the major honour with his side by losing to Germany in the 2014 final, while also finishing as runner-up in three of the last four Copa America tournaments.
Debate still rumbles on over who the greatest player of all time really is, with Maradona and Messi high up on the list of candidates, but the former Napoli star believes that five Ballons d'Or wins is proof enough of his compatriot's true brilliance.
"I am not going to tolerate that people say Messi is not the phenomenon that he is because he did not win a World Cup," he told TyC Sports. "Messi is a great player, regardless of whether he won the World Cup or not.
"At the age of 56, I can say that I have never seen anyone like Messi. I thank God that Messi is an Argentine. We have Messi, the Pope and me... Why would we burden him with claims that he is not a phenomenon if he does not win the World Cup? I won it because I got to play with guys like [Ricardo] Giusti, [Jorge] Burruchaga, [Nery] Pumpido, [Oscar] Ruggeri and many more."
Maradona won the World Cup on one occasion, leading La Albiceleste to a famous success at Mexico 86.body check tags ::