Lionel Messi “still has to win a World Cup” to cement his greatness, but FIFA president Gianni Infantino expects to see him in Russia.
There have been further international setbacks since then, with Copa America failings leading him to announce his retirement at one stage.
Messi was talked back into the fold, but Argentina are now sweating on their place at a 2018 showpiece and know they must secure a positive result against Ecuador on Wednesday to give themselves hope.
Success could give an icon on the modern era another shot at the global crown, with Infantino reminding the 30-year-old that he still needs that piece of silverware in order to secure a standing alongside the likes of illustrious countryman Diego Maradona.
The FIFA supremo told La Nacion: "Messi is extraordinary.
"Messi still has to win a World Cup, we have a lot of great players who did not win the World Cup.
"What made Diego so special to football for me is that he made us all fall in love with the game, of course he also won a World Cup."
Maradona inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, with his efforts almost single-handedly hauling his nation to victory.
Messi has faced the same level of expectation throughout his career, but has come up narrowly short on an international stage thus far.
His achievements at club level have earned him a standing among the greats, but a major prize with his country remains elusive.
Argentina’s struggles throughout their 2018 qualification campaign have threatened to leave Messi hanging for a little longer, but Infantino believes that Jorge Sampaoli’s side will drag themselves over the line.
He added on Messi’s potential involvement in Russia next summer: "He may be there, we may see him in 2022, it seems that he never gets injured, even if players want to foul him, they can't get near."
Victory over Ecuador is likely to see Argentina secure at least a play-off spot, while they could push their way into the top four and qualify automatically.
A draw will leave Sampaoli’s men checking on results elsewhere, with a complicated situation likely to have Argentina supporters everywhere on the edge of their seats.