Lionel Messi does not need to lead Argentina to the World Cup to be the greatest player of all time, according to Xavi.
The Barcelona ace endured a torrid start to the 2018 competition, missing a penalty as Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw against Group D minnows Iceland, and was hence the subject of criticism.
Xavi, a former team-mate of Messi at Camp Nou and a World Cup winner with Spain in 2010, believes that even if the 31-year-old cannot help his side to victory in the competition for the first time since 1986 it does not bear an influence on his standing in the game.
"For me, he's already the greatest, he does not need a World Cup to make sure of it,” Xavi told Journal du Dimanche.
He was responding to Angel Di Maria’s comment that “football owes Messi a World Cup”.
And Xavi believes that endorsement simply highlights the player’s quality.
“For an active player to say that shines a light on Messi’s greatness. In fact, he does exactly the same things as Alfredo Di Stefano, Pele, Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane, but between 10 and 50 years after them, when there’s less time to think about what you do in a game,” he said.
A legend of Barca, Xavi spoke about Antoine Griezmann, a player strongly linked with the club in recent times but who has chosen to remain with Atletico Madrid.
“I like him because he’s got class and can make the difference,” he said. “He’s one of the best in the world, very strong physically. He can do everything.
“He would adapt perfectly to Barcelona or any great team. Diego Simeone is very lucky to have him.”
Meanwhile, the midfield great has tipped France star Kylian Mbappe to potentially follow in Messi’s footsteps.
“He’s a formidable attacker at 19, who has shown great this at PSG and who is going to improve,” he said. “He’ll be one of the superstars of tomorrow.
“But I find him more physical than talented, like Paul Pogba, I think, even if I’ve not seen him play this season.”