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May 24, 2010

Maradona: Messi's better than me

By Soccernet staff

Diego Maradona may have inspired Argentina to World Cup success in 1986 but he feels Lionel Messi is capable of even greater feats, and has challenged the reigning World Player of the Year to become a leader for his country in South Africa.

Lionel Messi
GettyImagesLionel Messi takes advice from his national coach Diego Maradona

The debate over whether Lionel Messi will usurp his international coach and become perhaps the greatest player in history has intensified thanks to the forward's exploits this season, with his 47 goals in all competitions for Barcelona serving notice of his excellence.

Messi may have been criticised for failing to replicate his club form with Argentina, but Maradona expects great things from his young protégé and has urged him to inspire the players around him when then World Cup finals begin.

Maradona did the same when he wowed the world 24 years ago in Mexico, and feels Messi is at an even higher level at present.

"Messi is better than me at World Cup '86," Maradona told Sport. "He's the best player in the world and better by far compared to others.

"In 86, in Mexico, I did it with the ball, I grew up and my team-mates followed. Now I have explained the same to Leo to do it in South Africa and he has understood.

"It is fortunate that Leo was born in Argentina and I can train him. Whoever does not want to understand that, that it is their problem.

"Messi is well aware that colleagues expect him to be the icing on the cake. He has to be the leader with the ball. We need him to lead by example in the squad and on the pitch.

"He has to be the leader of the ball. When we play football and the ball does not pass through Messi, then ball goes through me but I cannot move so then we are going wrong."