(CNN) -

In the sight of Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer, the man who would be king awaits his destiny.

Diminutive and unassuming, Lionel Messi's faith in his ability has never been in question -- but a God-like shadow has always haunted him.

If Diego Maradona is a deity to Argentines, then Messi is a prophet.

"He was our water in the desert," national coach Alejandro Sabella said of Messi after his side's World Cup quarterfinal victory over Belgium.

Messi may not be Moses -- the ability to turn a rock into a pool of water is a stretch too far even for the Barcelona star -- but his football powers frequently attract supernatural praise.

After his two goals against Nigeria, opposition coach Stephen Keshi declared that Messi was of a different planet -- specifically Jupiter, although he didn't explain why.

Messi's achievements are well documented -- 381 goals in 466 matches for Barcelona, three European Champions League titles and six Spanish La Liga triumphs only tell half the story.

Four times he has been named world player of the year, while his face is posted on billboards across the world, with sponsors clamoring for his signature.

And yet, back where it all began, he does not receive the same affection as he does in the streets of Catalunya.

"The name of Maradona will always be a heavy burden on Messi's shoulders," says Cristina Perez, one of Argentina's leading sports journalists.

Maradona only ever won a Spanish Cup with Barcelona, before guiding Napoli to two Italian league titles, but it was on the international stage where he truly left his mark -- most notably leading Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986.

"Maradona's achievements as a footballer were absolutely stunning," Perez told CNN. "He used his gifts and guts to beat them all one by one before winning the World Cup in a glorious performance."

As much as his skill at Mexico '86, Maradona's use of his hand to deflect the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton in Argentina's 2-1 quarterfinal victory is still debated to this day.

Was he a cheat or was this a professional doing anything to create an advantage for his team?

A bit of both, according to Maradona. "A little bit by the Hand of God, another bit by the head of Maradona," is how he described his goal afterwards.

"That is why people forgive him for almost everything and still celebrate even the 'Hand of God' goal as an emblem of cunning and hunger of triumph," says Perez.

Maradona's performances at that tournament still astound to this very day.

The way he ran through the bewildered England defense in Mexico City to score his second goal, just minutes after his first controversial effort, led to it being labeled one of the greatest in football history.

In the semifinal Maradona scored twice against Belgium in a 2-0 win, beating four Belgian defenders to score his second goal.

In the final, he set up Jorge Burruchaga to score the winning goal as Argentina claimed a 3-2 victory over West Germany.

His performances secured hero status in Argentina and allowed him build up a huge amount of goodwill which would be sorely tested later when he was banned for drugs at the 1994 World Cup.

Maradona, was a man of the people, a boy who had grown up playing football on the streets of Buenos Aires, fighting each and every day to make his way in the world.

He had something about him that people could relate to -- something Messi, for all of his qualities, did not possess.

"Leo doesn't have the charisma or the eccentric side which helped build Maradona's gifts as a player," says Perez.

"He had a provocative and flamboyant personality -- he's still known as God.