Mauricio Pochettino believes Lionel Messi needs to win the World Cup with Argentina to “confirm” his status as the best player in the world.
Messi has won 11 league titles and four Champions League trophies over an illustrious club career.
However, international success has largely eluded Messi, having lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and finishing as Copa America runner-up three times.
Though Messi finally did win the Copa America in 2021, Pochettino feels the 35-year-old needs to win international football’s premier prize to certify him as the greatest player in the world.
“Like [Diego] Maradona or Pele, you need to confirm with the trophy,” Pochettino told The Athletic. “When you lift the trophy, it’s like, ‘okay, he is the best in the world.’
“It is the only thing missing for Messi, to lift the World Cup, and I hope in Qatar that it happens.
“Because I am Argentinian, and of course my desire is for Argentina to win the World Cup, and to confirm Messi is one of the best, in the same place as Maradona and Pele.”
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Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain after leaving Barcelona in 2021, giving Pochettino an opportunity to watch him up close as his head coach.
It also allowed Pochettino to assess Messi against another Argentina great, Maradona, who Pochettino played with for a brief spell at Newell’s Old Boys.
Asked to compare Messi and Maradona, Pochettino explained: “Both different, but both great. I don’t want to compare, because when you compare, you are trying to show one better than the other.
“I think for me, Messi, [whether] winning or not winning the World Cup, for me needs to be on the same level as Pele and Maradona. With different energy, different style, different personalities. But both great.”
Pochettino’s spell as PSG head coach lasted just 18 months, but during that period he also got to observe Neymar, who is hoping for World Cup success in Qatar with Brazil.
Pochettino rates Neymar as one of the best ever, saying: “The way he doesn’t feel the pressure, he is an amazing player. Very charismatic, with an amazing energy.
“We can say Neymar is one of the best players in the history of football. Maybe he didn’t achieve all that Messi achieved, or Cristiano [Ronaldo]. But the quality is in the same level.”