Lionel Messi Argentina
Argentina captain Lionel Messi ponders a few things during a training sessionReuters

Lionel Messi, love him or don't really love him (it is difficult to hate him isn't it?), one thing is undeniable – he is one of the best, if not the best, player in the world, and has been for the past several years. Messi has the ability to light up a football match with his unique characteristic – you know, running with the ball, as defender after defender looks to chop him down, but despite being this tiny little man, just motors along before using that magical left foot of his to find the exact spot of the net he wanted to find, followed by a look of "how on earth did he do that" from the opposition goalkeeper.

That ability has come to the fore on a few occasions at this FIFA World Cup 2014, but all of those fantastical moments will cease to matter, if Messi does not step up to that podium to lift that glinting golden trophy at the Maracana on behalf of Argentina.

This World Cup final is going to be the ultimate test of Messi's already unbelievable career – facing a side in brilliant form, and a team desperate, if not more, to win it all. Germany is not going to be easy or difficult, they are going to be downright demanding, and the one trump card Argentina have over their opponents is their skipper.

Messi, though, has faded a little at this World Cup, after sparkling in the first three group games, like only he can. The player's father revealed his son was exhausted at the moment, and there have been signs of fatigue, particularly in the second half of games in the knockout stages.

But then, if you cannot find that extra reserve of energy for a World Cup final, then you might as well not be playing the game, and Messi, will, no doubt, come into the biggie in Rio De Janeiro, rejuvenated and determined – the only question will be if he can turn that adrenaline which will be coursing through his veins into goals/assists; Germany will certainly be hoping not.

For so long Messi has been compared with Argentina's greatest – Diego Maradona; and the feeling has been simple really, if the Barcelona man wants to be put right up there with THE left-footed wonder, then he has to win the World Cup, just like Maradona did, almost single-handedly taking Argentina to the biggest dream in 1986.

It was the lone Messi show in the group stages for Argentina, which only increased those comparisons with Maradona and '86, before other players started to put their hands up and reduce the burden a little. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man is not just a hollow saying with little meaning in the modern era – it should define Messi on Sunday.

Great players always step up on the big stage, and the World Cup final is the granddaddy of the big stage.

It is quite simple really – if Messi fails to deliver (and by deliver, win the World Cup; because even if he does not have the greatest of games, the fact that Argentina lifted the title will overshadow his under-par performance, at least for the moment) in this repeat of the 1990 World Cup final, then the 27-year-old will, at least for another four years, fall in the category just a rung below the greatest of all-time.

Win the World Cup, though, ideally by scoring the winning goal, and even the biggest doubters will find it difficult to grudge him the title of one of the greatest ever footballers -- and put him on that pedestal reserved for only the fewest of few.

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