"But nobody can live on the past and the future depends on Messi's talents, otherwise there will be nothing more but nostalgia."

Messi and Maradona could scarcely be more opposite in character and lifestyle.

In the lead-up to the triumphant World Cup triumph in 1986, Maradona was in a daze.

A public row over an illegitimate child with his mistress threatened to ruin the nation's hopes, while throughout his career he was linked with the Camorra -- the Neopolitan mafia -- and, having suffered defeat in the 1990 World Cup final against Germany, was then banned for drug taking at the 1994 tournament in the U.S.

But in 1986 he single-handedly carried an Argentine nation, still recovering from the impact of the Falklands War, onwards to victory. It was the pinnacle of his international career which spanned 91 games and 34 goals.

Messi is more of a private and retiring type -- while he is not shy in coming forward with the ball at his feet, he does not command the same attention within Argentina that Maradona enjoyed.

Much of that has to do with Messi's upbringing. While Maradona grew up and made his name in Argentina, Messi moved to Barcelona at the age of 13.

He is quite open about the decision to uproot from his hometown of Rosario in Santa Fe and move halfway across the world.

"When I was 11 years old they discovered that I had a growth hormone deficiency and I had to start a treatment to help me to grow. Every night I had to stick a needle into my legs, night after night after night, every day of the week, and this over a period of three years," he said in the book "Messi," by Guillem Balague.

"I was so small, they said that when I went onto the pitch, or when I went to school, I was always the smallest of all. It was like this until I finished the treatment and I then started to grow properly."

And grow he did -- not just in height but in stature too.

Messi was the focal point of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona revolution and the emergence of tiki-taka football which dominated Spanish and European football.

Yet as his stock at Barcelona rose with each passing game, those back in Argentina remained skeptical.

The accusation was that Messi was not one of them. This was a player who had abandoned his homeland before he had managed to form any kind of Argentine identity -- he was Catalan.

"There are still some people -- too many people in my opinion, because there shouldn't be any at all -- who aren't totally convinced by him," Argentine football expert Sam Kelly told CNN.

"But the vociferousness of his celebrations, the quality of his performances since Sabella took charge in particular, and his undoubted centrality to the team, has now won over all but the most tiresome drunken critics.

"He doesn't have the same 'everyman' feel as Maradona, and it's difficult to imagine him ever shooting his mouth off as much, but bearing in mind he's only just turned 27 I think he will one day be considered on the same level as Maradona the player -- but the warmth of feeling for the person might never quite match up to Maradona."

Four years ago, when Messi and Maradona combined their powers at the 2010 World Cup -- it proved disastrous.

Messi failed to sparkle, Maradona cut a figure of fun on the touchline as coach and Argentina was thrashed 4-0 in the quarterfinal by a rampant Germany.

Perhaps now it is time for revenge, for on Sunday, Messi will captain Argentina in the World Cup final -- his 93rd appearance for the Albiceleste -- against Germany.

He has managed 42 goals in that time, four of which have come in this tournament.

Now more than ever, Argentina needs Messi -- it needs the ability to escape the problems which threaten to plague the country, notably a $100 billion default, with the economy shrinking by 11% and unemployment sky-rocketing.

Argentine officials will meet with a mediator in New York on Friday to end a long-running dispute with investors who turned down restructuring terms on the nation's debt after 2002.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has not missed the opportunity to take advantage of the World Cup, with the government running nationalistic adverts on state-run television during the games.

If the tactic is to distract the public then it has worked to some extent -- and Messi has played his part.