Rivaldo wary of Argentina as Messi chases World Cup recognition

The World Cup will be Lionel Messi's last opportunity to lift himself to Diego Maradona's level, according to former Brazil star Rivaldo.

Argentina forward Lionel Messi attends a training session at the FC Barcelona Joan Gamper training ground in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona.

Argentina captain Lionel Messi   -  Getty Images

Brazil great Rivaldo is wary of the threat posed by bitter rivals Argentina in Russia because he feels it will be Lionel Messi's last chance to gain World Cup recognition and elevate himself above Diego Maradona.

Messi is regarded by many as the greatest player of all time due to his exploits in Spain and Europe with Barcelona, winning every trophy possible and claiming five Ballons d'Or, the joint most alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2017-18 season was also the ninth successive campaign in which Messi has scored more than 40 goals across all competitions, as he inspired Barca's LaLiga triumph.

But at international level he has not been as successful, with the Under-20 World Cup and Olympic Games his only triumphs with La Albiceleste.

As such, it is often surmised that Maradona is held in higher regard in Argentina because he led his country to World Cup glory in 1986, and for Messi – who will turn 31 on June 24 – time is running out.

"I guess this is the last World Cup for Messi," 2002 World Cup winner Rivaldo told Omnisport.

"The only thing would be if Argentina don't have other players in the future, so Messi would have a next World Cup being 35 years old.

"I believe he'll give his best to get this title for Argentina. He's a great player, but many people are not confident in him because he hasn't conquered important titles yet for his country.

"That's why in Argentina Maradona is still considered the best player, because he was World Cup champion.

"Messi has this pressure. Although he's done great things for Barcelona, he's not so respected in his own country because he hasn't given a title for Argentina.

"That's why a title is important for a country. It's important for a club, of course, but it's different.

"He'll fight a lot to try to get this title because this stays in the history of his country. He's already part of Barcelona history, but he knows that he needs to be a World Cup champion, mainly so Argentina's people can respect him and have this conquest."

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