Former Argentina player Hernan Crespo speaking exclusively to Ladbrokes at the launch of their World Cup Free To Play Halftime Quiz believes that football has a debt to Lionel Messi.
Former AC Milan striker Crespo claims that Messi has respect for everything in football and he therefore deserves the biggest trophy of them all.
I think he deserves everything in football, because he's the kind of player who just has so much respect for everything in the game; the opponents, the rules, the fans, the club or country he's representing. I don't know what's going to happen in this World Cup, but I think football has a debt with him; he deserves a World Cup.
Messi Comes First
The 47 year old claims that Argentinians want Messi to win the World Cup and then Argentina. This is due to the effort the current PSG player has put in the past 15 years. This World Cup is Messi's 5th and likely last.
Our feelings as Argentinians are simple this year: we want Lionel Messi to win the World Cup, and then we want Argentina to win the World Cup. He comes first; it's more important that Messi wins it. He's a part of all of us, and has been around for 15 years. He really does deserve it.
Lucky To Share Competitions With Him
Crespo has played with Messi in two international tournaments, the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and the Copa America the following year. At the World Cup, where Argentina lost to the hosts in the quarter finals on penalties, Crespo thought that Messi would be a great leader.
I played with Lionel Messi in the 2006 World Cup, where, at the time, he'd just won the U20 World Cup and was sent straight into the senior team, you must understand he was very young and so that guy was so shy around us. He's a great leader for us, not just about football, but in terms of the example he sets, and how people feel when they're playing against him. Around him, everyone becomes better; it's simple.
In the Copa America, Argentina lost to Brazil 3-0 in the final. Despite the unsuccessful tournaments, Crespo believes that he was lucky to share those competitions with Messi.
I've been lucky enough to share those competitions with him, and what I saw - even at that age was a great, great player. A different player in terms of touch, his agility, and obviously his skills. It was spectacular to see at times. You'd finish your training session and your eyes would be all over the place because you've just watched him do so many magical things with the ball.
Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won 12 out of the past 14 Ballon D'ors and have created lots of debate over which is the greatest player out of them since Ronaldo first won it in 2008. Crespo believes that Messi is the better of the two and makes an interesting comparison between the duo and two tennis greats, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a great player, that's obvious. But I compare Messi and Ronaldo to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Both are great, great players, and we need to take off our hats for them. But your feeling when you watch Messi and Federer is different. Ronaldo and Nadal are still incredible at what they do, but for me, Lionel Messi and Roger Federer are another level.
This World Cup is Messi's last chance to win the trophy that has so far eluded him in his career. He came close in 2014, losing 1-0 to Germany in the final after added extra time. Messi and Argentina face Croatia in the semifinal tonight and would face either France or Morocco if they win. Football is potentially only two games away from erasing its debt to Messi.