Lionel Messi has been told that he will “never reach Diego Maradona’s level” by Hector Enrique, a member of Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning squad.
The Barcelona forward has established a standing among the all-time greats over the course of a stunning career.
He has five Ballons d’Or to his name, nine La Liga titles, four Champions League crowns, close to 600 senior goals at club and countless records.
International success has proved elusive, though, despite gracing finals of the World Cup and Copa America.
Enrique believes that will ensure that Messi forever sits below the iconic presence of Maradona in the pecking order of finest talents to have ever played the game.
“Messi, unfortunately, has had a hard time in the national team,” he told Ataque Futbolero.
“I hope that in the next World Cup he will have the luck we had, but Messi will never reach Maradona’s level.
“What I want is for Messi to play.
“If he is not having a good time [in the team], it’s better not to come.”
Messi stepped away from international duty on the back of a disappointing last-16 exit at the 2018 World Cup.
He did return to the fold for friendly fixtures in March, as Argentina step up their preparations for this summer’s Copa America in Brazil.
The 31-year-old was, however, to only figure in a 3-1 defeat to Venezuela before having to withdraw with a knock.
Further questions have been asked of his commitment to the Albiceleste cause and his inability to replicate his club form in the colours of his country.
Messi has, however, netted 65 times in 129 appearances for Argentina and remains the man most likely to inspire success heading towards more continental and global tournaments.
He concedes that such a standing is not always recognised back in his homeland, but he intends to keep going in an effort to silence those who doubt him.
Messi told Club Octubre 94.7 FM recently: “It is hard, my son is always looking on YouTube and saw a video. He asked me why in Argentina they want to kill me!
“But I like to keep going. I still want to win something with the national team. I am going to play all the important games. We already reached a World Cup final [in 2014] and this is not that easy.”