His goals have come at the right time for Argentina; his influence is never too far from the forefront of anything his country does in Brazil. Yet for many, Lionel Messi has achieved nothing yet.
However, over just three hours in the space of a few days, Messi could put himself on the same pedestal as Diego Maradona; legend, hero, World Cup winner.
That final category is all that now stands between Argentina’s footballing genius of the 21st century, and their greatest ever exponent of the previous Millennium.
Some would, and always will say, that Maradona was better, not in the skill stakes, but in what he contributed to the teams he played for.
Would Napoli have won Serie A without Maradona? No.
Would Barca have won La Liga minus Messi? Possibly.
And the same question will always be asked at international level, until Messi matches his hero by taking the World Cup back to Argentina.
In 1986, Maradona was Argentina’s inspiration and leader, a role Messi is currently fulfilling in Brazil. But nearly 30 years ago, Maradona delivered; indeed, he hand delivered one of the goals, to beat England in the quarter-final (while also netting one of the best World Cup goals ever), then added another double against Belgium in the semi-finals.
Messi didn’t manage to score in his country’s quarter-final tie against the Belgians on Saturday, having previously bagged four in four in this tournament.
That takes his overall tally at international level to 42 goals in 91 appearances, a better return for the same number of caps than Maradona, who managed 34. There are also similarities in what they’ve contributed to the cause at various World Cup tournaments. Maradona has 8 goals in 19 appearances; Messi has 5 goals in 13 games.
But, in this game of World Cup Top Trumps one fact beats all else; Maradona has a winners medal (and a runners up badge from 1990 as well), while Messi thus far has nothing.
Messi could change all of that with two winning performances; against Holland in midweek, and against either Germany or Brazil next Sunday.
Or, Lionel Messi may have to live for the next four years with the tag as the best players never to win the World Cup – or even the best Argentinian never to win it for a lifetime …