Passionate Messi ready to join Maradona in the pantheon

Sat Jul 12, 2014 5:34pm EDT
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By Javier Leira

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are great Argentine footballers with very different personalities but "Leo" became "Diego" for a brief moment when he scored in the World Cup group game against Bosnia.

The normally introverted Messi celebrated the goal, his first at a World Cup for eight years, with a primeval scream reminiscent of the raw passion that made Maradona such an idol at home.

While Maradona used to draw attention to himself as a player and in his private life, Messi is a shy character who shines on the pitch and prefers to maintain a low profile in his personal life and keep media appearances to a minimum.

Maradona still revels in the glory of leading Argentina to their second World Cup victory almost 30 years ago, while Messi dreams of inspiring them to a third on Sunday. If he does, he will become one of the all-time great players alongside his ex-coach and former Brazil forward Pele.

Messi always tried to avoid comparisons with Maradona, although that was going to be an impossible task.

"I don't want to in the World Cup with Argentina so people say that I'm better than Pele or Maradona. I just want to achieve that with my fellow players on the national team. Some Barca players won the World Cup and I want to know how does it feel," Messi said in a recent interview with ESPN.

POOR SLUM   Continued...

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring a goal against Bosnia during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro June 15, 2014.    REUTERS/Michael Dalder