Rodrigo De Paul is hoping to savour World Cup glory alongside Lionel Messi in Qatar later this year, with the Atletico Madrid midfielder admitting that his iconic countryman boasts a footballing brain that “works faster than any other human being's”.
Those qualities have been showcased on a regular basis by the all-time great over the course of a quite stunning career, but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is yet to claim a global crown.
There have been suggestions that the 2022 event in Qatar will provide Messi, who will be 35 by the time that tournament rolls around, with one final shot at his sporting Holy Grail, with De Paul among those looking to deliver for his legendary compatriot regardless of what the Paris Saint-Germain star's long-term future may hold.
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Will Messi’s fifth World Cup be his last?
Messi fell agonisingly short in a World Cup bid back in 2014, when Argentina suffered an extra-time final defeat to Germany, and that remains as close as he has come to completing a remarkable CV.
He is now preparing for a fifth outing on the grandest of stages, with De Paul telling GOAL when asked if a long-awaited triumph would provide the perfect send-off for the former Barcelona captain: “Firstly, Messi doesn't need anything else, after everything he has given to football to put him there at the top.
“I don't have much of an opinion about what is happening to him in Paris, because I don't live there from day to day, but I can tell you about what he does in the national team. He is happy with Argentina. He is our leader, we follow him.
“He will surely talk to us, he will be going to his fifth World Cup and will give us advice, a word of encouragement, because that experience carries a lot of weight right now. I hope Messi enjoys it and he doesn't suffer from it. Hopefully it goes well, we'll see if it's his last World Cup or not, that's for him to decide.
“He can really continue playing as long as he wants to because he's at another level, his head works faster than any other human being's, so we'll all try to make him enjoy this World Cup and, if we get to the last day, even better.”
Can Argentina challenge for World Cup glory?
The Albiceleste bowed out in the last 16 four years ago, when they lost 4-3 to eventual winners France, and have now been placed in a group alongside Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Poland at the 2022 tournament.
Lionel Scaloni’s men are expected to make positive progress to the knockout stages once again, with De Paul admitting that anything is possible as the two-time winners attempt to get their hands on the ultimate prize for the first time since Diego Maradona captained them to glory in 1986.
“It's a World Cup and the best teams are there,” De Paul said when asked if Argentina can mount a serious challenge in the Middle East.
“It is a difficult group. The three rivals that Argentina will have to play have different ways of playing and different styles, we will have to adapt.
“We are very excited because of the journey made after 2018. In the last four years things have been done very well, we are all together, with the coach as well. He won a Copa America, 31 games without losing…
“We are looking forward to it, but with measured ambition because there are seven or eight candidates, but we go with hope, knowing that only one country can be world champion.
“We will try to reach the last day. Above all because we want to give that to the fans. We have to give belief to a country in which there are always more negative things than positive. By giving that to people, we win.”