Lionel Messi has seen the World Cup become “a revolver put to his head”, says Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli, with unnecessary pressure damaging a global superstar.
A man with five Ballons d’Or to his name and countless collective honours at Barcelona is yet to claim major silverware at senior international level.
He has reached finals of the Copa America and World Cup, but has never been able to get over the line and complete the most distinguished of resumes.
Messi will have another opportunity to get his hands on the most elusive of prizes in Russia this summer, but Sampaoli believes expectation levels are already spiralling out of control.
He has written in a book due to be released in April, from which "Viva", Clarin's Sunday magazine has been running snippets: "Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn't win it, he's shot and killed.
"As a result, he can't enjoy his talent.
"What I find is that the negativity surrounding international football damages Messi."
While of the opinion that too much is expected of Messi, Sampaoli concedes that he is working with a special talent.
He added: "At this moment, I feel that I'm coaching the best player in history.
"This is a guy who has stayed as the best in the world for 10 years.
"It's difficult to assume a level of control when your leader knows he's better than you, he executes things like nobody else."
Sampaoli has previously suggested that football owes Messi a World Cup win, given all that he has done for the game, but he is also aware that it will take a collective effort in Russia if Argentina are to emerge victorious.
"You have to find the best players and put them in their best position," he said.
"Leo has to play like he does for his club, to put him into another structure is madness.
"Against Ecuador I was a bit strong in my tone suggesting that football owed Messi a World Cup, however I knew he was going to appear for us at the vital moments."