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Diego Maradona: I will always remember Lionel Messi crying

Diego Maradona Holds a Press Conference In Rome

ROME, ITALY - FEBRUARY 14: Diego Maradona speaks to the media about his ongoing legal dispute with the Italian Tax authorities during a press conference at the European Union office on February 14, 2014 in Rome, Italy. The former footballer is accused of tax evasion and is said to owe almost 40 million Euros in unpaid tax on undeclaired earnings. Maradona denies these claims. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Paolo Bruno

It wouldn’t be a day of international friendlies without Diego Maradona waxing poetic on the game. Today’s topic: Lionel Messi’s legacy.

“Messi does not need to win the World Cup to be the best player in the world,” he told La Nacion. “That has nothing to do with it - we should not confuse being fat with a swollen belly.”

“To win the World Cup would be monstrous for Argentina, it would be monstrous for the fans, and it would be monstrous for Leo. But winning a World Cup or not winning a World Cup does not take away any of what he has done to be where he is.”

Of course few will deny that Messi has already been - or is now (although Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo would say otherwise) the best player in the world. The concern of his winning a World Cup has more to do with whether Messi will be considered the greatest...ever. It’s a topic that divides opinion and one that Maradona says could be resolved by this summer as Messi is injury free and in his prime.

“Thanks to his age and the experience gained in these years, this is the World Cup which is best for [Messi],” said Argentina’s 2010 World Cup coach. “I have the memory of South Africa,” Maradona continued. “I can still hear, and I believe I will always be able to hear, the sound of Leo crying when we were knocked out against Germany.

“He came up to me and I told him that he would have a pile of World Cups to get revenge. I said it to him with the heart. They were all thinking about the return, about their tickets... and he was there, distraught, crying.”

Describing the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as the time when Messi can seek his “great revenge,” Maradona noted that along with Argentina he believes Germany, Spain and Brazil are the main threats to win the tournament.

Messi and Argentina face Romania in Bucharest today at 2:00pm.

Follow @mprindi