Maradona light years behind Messi, says Ramos

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Spain captain Sergio Ramos has responded to a putdown from Argentina great Diego Maradona by making an unlikely declaration of admiration for Lionel Messi, his usual enemy as the talisman of Real Madrid's arch-rivals Barcelona.

Ahead of Thursday's critical World Cup match against Croatia on the banks of the Volga River, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli tried to temper the expectations weighing on his star player.

Messi turns 31 on Sunday, so this may be his last World Cup. I see a lot of "Messi's friends" but not many "teammates".

Kempes also reflected on the 1978 World Cup victory over the Netherlands, admitting that the joy was unforgettable.

He added: "When we succeed with Argentina, everyone takes credit for it but when Argentina loses, it's always Leo's fault".

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"It is clear that Messi's legacy and standing within the game would be enhanced with victory in Russian Federation this summer, but he does not need to win the World Cup to be viewed as Maradona's equal", argued London-based sports writer Greg Lea in an article for The Sportsman. "We need to take advantage of that".

"There is a "Messi dependency" generated by Messi himself because of how incredible he is on the pitch, but we can not rest just on that".

"We have analyzed the opponent all week and I believe we will have a great match". Messi is a fantastic player.

Argentina collected just seven points from eight games when Messi was missing for qualifying games, with that total transformed to 21 points in the ten games when he did start.

"Football, the World Cup, would not be the same without Messi".

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"But talent-wise and when we talk about the complete player, Leo became the best goalscorer ever, became the best passer ever, he can score with both feet, his head, he can dribble around four players". As a effect of that pressure we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future.

Do you think Messi might never win a major trophy with Argentina?

The Croatians opened their tournament campaign with a 2-0 win over Nigeria, putting them in a better spot in Group D than Argentina when the teams meet on the banks of the Volga in Nizhny Novgorod.

He dare not fail again.

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