The Barcelona ace has gained worldwide acclaim as the best footballer on the planet and possibly the best ever in the history of the game.
But Pele, who is still widely credited to the status, has questioned the Argentinean's credentials on the international stage.
"I think a 'great' player is defined by their performances at the World Cup," he was quoted as saying in The Sun newspaper.
"For example, watch Lionel Messi play for Barcelona. He is very good. Exceptional. But for Argentina, he's completely different.
"Compare him to Zinedine Zidane. He won the World Cup and was at the top for 15 years. He was a more complete player than Messi.
"Before Zidane there was Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Michel Platini and Bobby Moore.
"Great players who won World Cups or, in Cruyff and Platini's case, starred in them."
Switching his topic on long-time nemesis Diego Maradona, Pele rates Dutch master Johan Cruyff above the Argentinean.
He added: "Maradona only had one foot and was not good in the air.
"He was a great player but what happened in the World Cup finals in 1994 tarnished his image, when he got sent home for taking drugs.
"Cruyff was much more interesting. He was different to Maradona, more complete."
Pele enjoyed an incredible career, scoring 1,281 goals in 1,363 games and winning three World Cups with Brazil.