Unlike perhaps any other great player, claims regarding the supremacy of Lionel Messi above all others is based on a wealth of first-hand evidence.
Never has there been as exciting a footballer whose every appearance can be accessed with relative ease.
An apparent exception to the rule that even the very best sometimes suffer an off-day, the only tangible realm in which the Barcelona man is subject to criticism tends to occur every four years.
In a book that will be released in April, the Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli writes of the near-impossible situation Messi finds himself in:
Messi has a revolver put to his head called the World Cup and if he doesn't win it, he's shot and killed.
As a result, he can't enjoy his talent.
What I find is that the negativity surrounding international football damages Messi.
To the relative bystander in Messi's illustrious career, the only available stick with which to poke holes in his supremacy is the absence of any international accolades.
When he preemptively called a halt to his international career after another disappointing final defeat in the Copa America, the incessant reminder of Diego Maradona's World Cup legacy would have appeared to have gotten the better of him.
Sampaoli's revolver analogy describes what many would view as the objective asterisk hanging over Messi's international career. Despite scoring more goals for Argentina than any other player before him, the World Cup final defeat to Germany in 2014 seemed a reminder of the minimum that was expected; not a maximum accomplishment that could bring some solace in having come so close anyway.
Ahead of what will almost certainly be the last World Cup campaign in which Messi remains among the very pinnacle of the world's players, the former Sevilla coach has been quick to praise Messi also:
At this moment, I feel that I'm coaching the best player in history. This is a guy who has stayed as the best in the world for 10 years.
Conceding that it is "difficult to assume a level of control when your leader knows he's better than you," Sampaoli sounds confident that his trust in Messi's judgement will nonetheless tell "at the vital moments" in Russia.