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Jul 4, 2014

Caniggia wants support for Messi

Former Argentina World Cup star Claudio Caniggia says the current team cannot continue to rely on Lionel Messi if they want to win this year's trophy.

Messi has scored four goals and won four man-of-the-match awards in Argentina's first four games at this year's tournament, while also laying on the winner for Angel Di Maria in their narrow injury-time round-of-16 win over Switzerland.

Meanwhile, other Argentina attackers Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Rodrigo Palacio have yet to open their accounts at the tournament, and Sergio Aguero is sidelined with a thigh injury and unlikely to feature in Saturday's quarterfinal clash with Belgium.

Caniggia, who starred for his country at the 1990 and 1994 finals, told El Mundo Deportivo that it was dangerous to rely on just one player to always pull you through.

"Lionel's World Cup is excellent from the point of view of efficiency," Caniggia said. "He is the number one, the best player in the world today, and has been key in the five games. Against Iran he did not play well, but you give him one chance and he sticks it in.

"Against Switzerland, Palacio wins the ball back, Leo runs 20 metres with the ball and wipes out the opponent. It is a joy to see him like that, but the other individuals Argentina have who have not performed must step forward beside him, because he cannot always solve everything on his own."

Winning the trophy would seal the Barcelona player's place as one of football's best ever players, Caniggia said, although his personal favourite would always remain his former teammate Diego Maradona.

"Messi does not need a World Cup to be recognised as one of the greats in history," he said. "But I believe that if he wins the trophy, he will be level with Maradona, because they would both have the same number of World Cups won. And later, he will be recognised worldwide as one of the five all-time greats.

"Then, well, there are people who saw Pele play and say he was the greatest. For me, the best in history is Maradona. We all have our opinion and there is not usually agreement on these things."

The former River Plate, Atalanta, Boca Juniors and Rangers forward said he had also been especially impressed with the displays of Barcelona's Javier Mascherano in midfield for the Albiceleste during the current tournament.

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"What Mascherano is doing is sensational," Caniggia said. "He is playing at such a high level. For the number of attacks he stops, the balls he recovers, what he runs and what he contributes to the team to keep it balanced.

"He is fundamental, almost the continuation of the coach on the pitch. Plus, as he knows the position of centre-half having played there for Barcelona, he always understands well what the team needs in every moment."

Di Maria was also a vital player for his national side, but the Real Madrid midfielder would do well to play at a less hectic pace, Caniggia said.

"Di Maria is key," he added. "An important player who has won the Champions League, plays for Real Madrid and ended the season at an impressive level. For the national team to work he is fundamental. The only thing is that sometimes he wants to do everything like lightning and is in too much of a hurry. For me he is vital, I am surprised that Real Madrid could be trying to sell him."

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