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Maradona: Messi doesn't need title to cement greatness

Updated: 2014-03-06 07:20
( China Daily)

Lionel Messi does not need a World Cup winners' medal to be considered among soccer's all-time greats, fellow Argentine Diego Maradona said on Tuesday.

"Messi doesn't need to win the World Cup to be the best player in the world," said Maradona, who led Argentina to the title in Mexico in 1986.

"If he did it would be great for Argentina, the fans and for Lio, but (winning) a World Cup or not won't take away any of his achievements up to now to be among the greatest."

Two-time World Cup champion Argentina faces Romania in a friendly in Bucharest on Wednesday as it begins to crank up its preparations for this year's finals in Brazil.

Former captain and coach Maradona said everything looks to be in place for Messi to shine, although Argentina's task will be tough with host Brazil, defending champion Spain and Germany among the sides to beat.

Maradona said Messi had a great World Cup in South Africa in 2010 despite not scoring any goals. The Argentina team coached by Maradona lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals.

"Messi had an exceptional World Cup with me... but nobody said so, because he didn't score. He turned all the goalkeepers into stars," he said.

Maradona said he could not forget Messi's sobs when Argentina was eliminated.

"I approached him and told him he'd have many World Cups to get revenge. I said it with all my heart. While the rest were thinking about our return (home) he was there, head bowed, crying."

Argentina is in Group F with Bosnia, Iran and Nigeria. The World Cup opens on June 12.

"There's Spain, Germany and there's Brazil with a tremendous defence. You think of Brazil's defence and six or seven names come to mind, you think of their attack and there's only Neymar," Maradona said.

"For Lio, it will be a test of character. Brazil can be his great revenge," added Maradona, who will commentate on the tournament for a Venezuelan television program.

- Reuters

(China Daily 03/06/2014 page23)