Buenos Aires: Former Brazilian star Bebeto says Lionel Messi is the most talented player in the world today - but the 1994 World Cup winner believes the Barcelona man must achieve glory with Argentina for true greatness.
Messi has been struggling to find his dazzling club form with an Argentina side desperately missing his magic so far at the Copa America.
"To achieve true greatness, Messi also must play for the national side as he does for Barcelona," says Bebeto.
"Barcelona and Argentina are different.”
"There they have been playing together for a long while and everything comes more easily. They have Xavi, Iniesta - with Argentina I don't know what is happening," said Bebeto on Saturday.
Brazil's fifth all-time scorer with 39 goals, told an Argentina daily, said Messi was seeing far less of the ball than with Barca and "this is a major error".
As a result, the albiceleste, seeking to prevent a Brazilian Copa hattrick, are struggling to look the part and draws with Bolivia and Colombia have left them needing to beat Costa Rica in their final group match to reach the quarter-finals on home soil.
Clarin was keen to draw comparisons between Messi and Argentina's previous world-beating number ten, Diego Maradona, who starred in their 1986 World Cup win.
"Which of the two is better? Messi still has much to do," said Bebeto, who today is involved in social projects to help deprived children through football, "which is a hugely powerful instrument of social inclusion."
Bebeto, who treasures a shirt Maradona gave him after one encounter, believes the latter is still very much the yardstick for Messi to look up to.
"It is very difficult to see Messi being better than Maradona was.”
"To see Maradona play was a truly impressive spectacle, the way he dominated the ball, the way he passed - incredible quality. He treated the ball with love with affection, a special magic...”
"You cannot ask for so much of Messi - he is only 23, still very young.”
"In the game of today he makes the difference and is the best there is. But he's different from Maradona - Maradona was magical, beautiful. I stopped whatever I was doing to watch him while he was with Napoli.
"He was impressive - Maradona is on a level with Pele.”
"We shall have to see if Messi can become what Maradona was.”
First Published: Saturday, July 09, 2011, 23:02