Lionel Messi will still be the best player in the world, regardless of whether he wins the World Cup with Argentina.
That’s the view of his Barcelona team-mate Ivan Rakitic, whose Croatia side will face Messi and Co at the upcoming World Cup.
The 30-year-old has enjoyed incredible success at club level with the Catalan giants but the biggest prize in football has so far eluded him.
Rakitic has dismissed suggestions that failing to win the World Cup will tarnish the Argentine’s reputation, however, insisting it should make no difference to his legacy.
‘Surely he deserves to win it for who he is. Football isn’t tennis: you can’t put Messi under pressure by saying he alone has to win the World Cup,’ he told Marca.
‘He does deserve it but there are 32 countries with the same dream. If he wins it at the end, we will all be happy for him.
‘However, his story is not going to change if he wins it or not… f you are the best, you are it independently of whether you win one or 50,000 titles. One World Cup will not change what Leo Messi means to football.’
Rakitic and Croatia were drawn alongside Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria in Group D for the finals in Russia.
Ahead of the two sides’ meeting on June 21, Messi and Co are favourites to win the group and Rakitic insists neither he or his coach have come up with a way to tame his Barcelona team-mate.
‘In football, no-one has found the formula as how to stop Messi. Not (Croatia coach Zlatko) Dalic, not me, no-one can. What we’ve got to do is enjoy him,’ he said.
‘We measure ourselves against the best and to have the opportunity to face the best is brilliant. We know that it’s going to be difficult but so will the games against Nigeria and Iceland.
‘We realise that it’s just special to go up against Leo but he also knows that we all want to play well against him.’
SOURCE: DAILY MAIL