Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic insists Argentina star Lionel Messi will remain the best player in the world no matter what happens at the World Cup.
Messi has won everything there is to win with Barcelona, where he plays alongside Rakitic, but he remains under pressure to win his first senior trophy with Argentina.
It’s been suggested that Messi can’t be considered the best player in history unless he wins a major trophy with the Albiceleste, but Rakitic believes that’s rubbish.
“Surely he deserves to win it for who he is. Football isn’t tennis: you can’t put Messi under pressure by saying he alone has to win the World Cup,” he told Marca.
“He does deserve it but there are 32 countries with the same dream. If he wins it at the end, we will all be happy for him.
“However, his story is not going to change if he wins it or not.
“If you are the best, you are it independently of whether you win one or 50,000 titles. One World Cup will not change what Leo Messi means to football.”
Rakitic and Messi will face each other when Croatia and Argentina clash in Group D at the World Cup on June 21.
He added: “In football, no-one has found the formula as how to stop Messi. Not [Croatia coach Zlatko] Dalic, not me, no-one can. What we’ve got to do is enjoy him,” he said.
“We measure ourselves against the best and to have the opportunity to face the best is brilliant. We know that it’s going to be difficult but so will the games against Nigeria and Iceland.
“We realise that it’s just special to go up against Leo but he also knows that we all want to play well against him.”