The Argentina great insists he would be glad to see the Barcelona forward take up his mantle if he emulates his 1986 World Cup win, urging him to put his tiredness to one side.
Diego Maradona hopes Lionel Messi can deliver a performance that betters his 1986 displays to lead Argentina past Germany in Sunday’s final.
The Albiceleste, who progressed to the showpiece at the Maracana after a 4-2 penalty shootout win over the Netherlands, are aiming to lift their third World Cup and their first since Mexico in 1986 where they defeated die Mannschaft 3-2 in the final.
Maradona inspired the Argentines to the trophy with his displays in 1986, winning the Golden Ball en route to the triumph, and says he would be delighted if Messi does the same.
“If on Sunday Messi has to overcome Maradona to lift the cup, I’ll give him the red carpet,” the 53-year-old told the De Zurda TV programme.
“He will be the player who will define the game. The only fear I have is that he is tired, but in the end you cannot be tired. I think he will understand. If you miss a shot on Sunday, you only resemble the best in the world.”
Sunday’s final represents the third time Germany and Argentina have met at this stage of the competition, and Maradona insisted that he was happy to face Joachim Low’s side despite their stunning 7-1 win over Brazil in the semis.
“Germany is not impossible,” he added.
“Argentina can do it. Against Algeria, we saw one Germany, and against Brazil [we saw] another. We all expected it to be Brazil in the final. Argentina are going in strengthened. Once again Argentine football is back at the top. The jersey had lost prestige. Today it got it back.
“The Argentines need to win this final. It could not be an all European final in South America, so we represent our continent. We could not allow it.”