Argentine football legend Diego Maradona has revealed his admiration for Lionel Messi, affirming that the Barcelona idol does not need a World Cup title to be considered one of the greats.
Messi came within an inch of lifting the title in 2014, only to see Argentina's hopes of a third trophy destroyed by Mario Gotze's extra-time goal for Germany in the final.
It is one of four major finals Messi has lost with the Albiceleste, with three Copa America bids falling short at the last hurdle in 2007, 2015 and 2016.
For Diego, however, the star of Argentina's 1986 triumph, the failure to win a World Cup does not detract from Leo's stardom.
"I will not let people say that Messi is not the phenomenon that he is because he hasn't won a World Cup," Diego fired to TyC Sports on Thursday.
"The things I saw Leo do, in training as well as in matches, will not be washed away if he doesn't have it.
"Messi is a great with or without the World Cup. In 56 years I have never seen someone like him, I thank God he is Argentine. We have Messi, Pope Francis and me!"
The 29-year-old star has played in three World Cup campaigns, one of which in 2010 was directed by his predecessor at No. 10 who took Argentina to a quarter-final defeat at the hands of Germany.
And Maradona insisted that the pressure placed on Messi's shoulders by the Argentine public is unfair.
"Why do we have to place the condition on Leo that if he does not win the World Cup he is not brilliant," he pondered.
"I won it with [Ricardo] Giusti, [Jorge] Burruchaga, [Nery] Pumpido, [Oscar] Ruggeri and quite a few others besides."