Lionel Messi Argentina
Lionel Messi is battling injury and off-field problems in his bid to guide Argentina to the Copa America Centenario title. Pictured: Messi winces after picking up a back injury during an international friendly against Honduras, May 27, 2016.AFP

You compare Lionel Messi to Pele or Diego Maradona, the first argument against the Barcelona forward is that he has not won a major trophy for his country. And, to a certain extent, it is a valid argument too.

It is not like Messi is like Cristiano Ronaldo, where he does not have enough help around him to be able to go all the way in a World Cup or a Copa America/Euros (in Ronaldo's case). Messi, after all, plays for Argentina, and no matter what the scenario, Argentina will always be one of the favoured teams in a major tournament.

In the last two of those, Messi and Argentina have suffered heartbreak, losing to Germany in the final of the World Cup in 2014 and then to Chile in the Copa America a year later. Normally, Messi would have had to wait another three years for another major title tilt, but with the Copa America Centenario – in celebration of 100 years of the tournament – being held this month in the USA – the first time it has been held outside South America -- the Barcelona legend has been given another opportunity to get that no-major-trophy-with-Argentina monkey off his back.

The signs, to begin with, do not look too great, though. Messi is coming off another gruelling season in Europe, where Barcelona, despite winning the domestic double, were left a little disappointed, after seeing their Champions League defence ended by Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals.

Barca only just managed to defend their La Liga title, after a big wobble, and while two major trophies in a season is something that any club can be proud of, there was that feeling of "could have been better" hovering in the air.

However, that season is now history and all Messi can do is put his best foot forward and lead Argentina to triumph in the Copa America Centenario in the US. That, though, will not be easy, with distraction on and off the pitch hindering his preparations.

Messi picked up a back injury in an international friendly against Honduras last Friday, with his availability for the opening match against Chile in a little bit of doubt. That doubt has only heightened because Messi is expected to fly to Spain in order to be present at a trial where the 28-year-old is being tried on tax fraud charges.

The striker is expected to fly back in time for the opener against Chile on June 7, but such distractions are hardly ideal as he looks for that historic win for his country. If there is anyone who can overcome adversity and bang in the goals for fun to lead Argentina to another final, this time when they actually win it, it is Messi.

Such is the left-footed wonder's talent that he makes the sport of football look ridiculously easy. And while that easy-on-the-eye style has not been as prevalent in an Argentina shirt as it has been in a Barcelona one, there is little doubt that if he is on his game, and with the quality support around him, Argentina will be a real force in this Copa America Centenario in the USA.

Of course, even if Messi does lead Argentina to the Copa America title, there will be plenty of critics saying it doesn't count, as it is a ceremonial tournament, while others will say he will only become a true all-time great if he wins the World Cup with his country, much like Pele, Maradona and the other legends of the game before him did.

A bit if a lose-lose situation for Messi, but then the first step towards international football legendhood will be taken by leading Argentina to the Copa America 2016 crown.