The former Argentina international believes the Barcelona star has matured and could lead Alejandro Sabella's side to their first major trophy since Copa America 1993Former Argentina international Javier Zanetti believes this year’s World Cup is looking increasingly like it belongs to Lionel Messi.
The Barcelona man has been criticised for his performances in international football but appears transformed since Alejandro Sabella’s appointment as coach, and now has 22 goals in his last 22 internationals.
After hitting the winning goals against both Nigeria and Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group F, Zanetti says the 27-year-old is the ideal man to lead the team to its first major trophy since 1993.
"It seems that this will be the Leo World Cup,” Zanetti told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“And I hope so. He has taken the team on his shoulders in times of need. Only the super champions know how to do that. He is an absolute leader of this group.”
"In 2006 and 2010 we already knew he had enormous talent, but he was still young and had to mature. In the last three to four years he has grown a lot and is now the captain and takes more responsibility. This may be his World Cup.”
The former Inter star also suggested Sabella’s decision to leave Juventus striker Carlos Tevez out of the squad was the correct decision.
“Tevez has had an extraordinary year,” he continued.
“But to put him in you have to take off one of the others and if the group works then it is difficult to enter.”
Argentina have already sealed qualification for the last-16 and need only avoid defeat to Nigeria on Wednesday to ensure they progress as group winners.