The Argentina star admits he is desperate to win the World Cup to emulate the former Napoli ace and says "the people will decide" who the best player in the world is
Messi has frequently been compared with compatriot Maradona following his exploits as a No.10 at club level, which have seen him claim the Ballon d'Or four times, more than 21 senior titles and a myriad of goalscoring records.
However, the 26-year-old concedes there is one glaring omission from his trophy cabinet as he prepares to lead Argentina to the World Cup finals in Brazil next month.
"I was jealous. It was healthy jealousy. I wanted to trade places with them," he told ESPN when asked how he felt watching Maradona, Pele and Beckenbauer lift the prestigious trophy. "And no matter how much I ask, they can't fully explain how it feels to win a World Cup.
"I want to be world champion but not to change the perception of others towards me, or to achieve greatness like they say, but to reach the goal with my national team and to add a World Cup to my list of titles.
"I've grown a lot [since the 2006 and 2010 tournaments]. Lots of things have happened to me, good and bad, which helped me grow as a person and a professional."
Messi went on to state that his desire to constantly improve is one of his strongest characteristics and says he will allow the global fans of the game to make up their own mind over whether he is the world's best player.
"I am my own number one critic," he said. "I always want to be better, to do more, to be my own top critic and accept the good and the bad.
"The only thing that matters is playing. I have enjoyed it since I was a small boy. I still try to do that every time I go out onto the pitch.
"I always say that, when it's no longer enjoyable or fun to play, then I won't do it anymore. I do it because I love it and that's all I care about.
"I think there are a lot of great players. Neymar, [Andres] Iniesta, Xavi, Cristiano [Ronaldo], [Franck] Ribery, [Arjen] Robben... I can name a lot of good players.
"I'll let the people decide."