Is Messi a lesser player than Maradona because he has not won the World Cup?
With the disappointing performance of Argentina in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi seems to have failed in his last attempt at winning the World Cup for Argentina. As with many greats of the game, such a failure takes away some shine off his greatness.
The inevitable comparison is with Diego Maradona, the other great Argentine football player who helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup, with his ‘Hand of God’ goal being a part of football lore for generations to come.
In some experts’ eyes, despite Messi’s astounding achievements on the football field, most notably with Barcelona, his lack of success with the national team makes him only the second greatest Argentine footballer behind Maradona.
What is conveniently forgotten or is at least brushed aside is that football is a team game. Individual brilliance may not be sufficient to take the team to victory. Messi may have played a huge role in Barcelona’s success, but it would not have been possible if he did not have such illustrious teammates such as Xavi, Iniesta, Luis Suarez, etc.
Similarly, it is difficult to imagine that Maradona could have led Argentina to World Cup glory if he did not have such wonderful footballers in his team such as Oscar Ruggeri, Jorge Valdano and Burruchaga. If Messi had a few outstanding players to support him in the Argentine side, he would have certainly fared much better with the national side, just as he did with his club side.
Messi’s contemporary and long-time rival, Cristiano Ronaldo too has had little success with the national side in the World Cups, but his Euro 2016 victory puts his international trophy count on one greater than Messi's.
It is unfair to blame an individual player for the failure of a team, however brilliant that player may be. Messi’s failure to win the World Cup for Argentina certainly does not make him a lesser player, when compared to the mercurial Maradona.