Lionel Messi criticism for lack of World Cup 'ridiculous' - Mario Kempes
Argentina World Cup winner Mario Kempes has called for the constant comparisons between Barcelona star Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona to stop.
Kempes won the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot as the Albiceleste lifted football's top prize in 1978, but it is Maradona and Messi who are widely regarded as the country's best ever players.
Two decades have now passed since Maradona retired from the sport but it doesn't stop the constant debate in Argentina and beyond about whether he was better than Messi or not.
"Maradona is Maradona, that's indisputable, but he doesn't play anymore," Kempes said in an interview with El Universo,
"He stopped playing a long time ago. Messi [still] runs and delights us. You can't compare the two because they played in different eras, in different teams and with different teammates.
"We have to stop this. They say Maradona is God, but there's only one God [points to the sky]!"
One accusation levelled against Messi is that he's never won a World Cup with his country. He was named the tournament's best player two years ago in Brazil, but that was scant consolation after losing to Germany in final.
Maradona, in contrast, was the central figure as Argentina lifted the trophy for a second time in 1986. Using that as bait to criticise Messi, though, Kempes adds, is ridiculous.
"When Diego won the World Cup in 1986, perhaps he had the luck that Messi has not had," the 62-year-old said.
"Diego had very good teammates and things went well. Messi has good teammates, too, but what happened is that Diego, with the Hand of God, went to the final -- and with the kick which the English players didn't give him when he went past a number of them and scored that goal.
"So luck was on his side, too. They say that Messi lacks a World Cup? No! Why? [Alfredo] Di Stefano did not win a World Cup, neither did a lot of other players. It's stupid."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.