As the 2011 Copa America gets under way, we are all reminded that, for the majority of the year, Lionel Messi is praised as the best soccer player on the planet. And for good reason: His play with Barcelona is the stuff of legend and highlight reels.
Over the last three years, Barcelona has been unstoppable. Messi is far and away the team's best player. He is averaging .67 goals a game, but that stat alone does little to speak about his greatness. Messi impacts the game on every level.
He creates opportunities for others with his play-making, and just his presence on the field commands so much attention from the defense that other players become the beneficiary of defensive neglect.
But Messi's play for Barcelona is not the whole story. He also has his resume as a member of Team Argentina. And it is there where his performance has failed to live up to his legend.
That is not to say that Messi has played poorly with Argentina—his performances would be the highlight of almost any other player's career, but Lionel Messi is not just any other player. He is Lionel Messi. And he has not been at his amazing, jaw-dropping best for Argentina.
Argentina has not experienced anything close to the level of success you would expect from a soccer-rich country that is the current home of the world's best player. 
As I mentioned, Messi has been far from a bust for Argentina. He is still clearly their best player. He just isn't finding the back of the net like he is accustomed to. In 61 appearances for Argentina, Messi has just 17 goals.
Fans see the evidence of diminished production and place the burden of Argentina's disappointment on Messi's shoulders. And that is a cross Messi will have to bear until he starts finding the net at a mind blowing rate and/or Argentina sits on top of the soccer world again.
The simple fact of the matter is that Messi cannot be solely blamed for his lack of production. He is the first, last and almost every priority in between for coaches when they face Argentina.
What may be the biggest factor is that Argentina has been trying to mold Messi to a system instead of molding the system to fit Messi. Here is former Chivas de Guadalajara coach Hans Westerhof from an ESPN article on the subject:
It's been a little different system, with Barcelona he's playing in a 4-3-3 and with Argentina it's not quite like that. He needs a little more space. In any team that you're not really playing with a true No. 10, the creative players get forced out to the wings. That's what was happening in Argentina with Messi. Players like Messi will get forced out to the wings to find more space. It's not favorable for a player like Messi. With players like Pedro, Iniesta in the middle with him, it's not an issue, they know when to open that space. But put other players around him in those spaces and it's hard for him to find the gaps so easily.
That is about to change. Mauro Rosales, a former Argentine Olympian, sheds some light on Argentina's new philosophy:
I think the coach is making a team around him to help. He is the best player in the world and he's doing very well with Barcelona, and I think the coach wants to do something like how he is playing in Barcelona, with a few players around him like Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Dani] Alves. He wants to put in the field some players who can make that work for him and try to give Leo the option to be a better player on the national team.
It is unlikely that Messi's international numbers will ever match his club numbers, but I would be surprised if they didn't get a lot closer. And, chances are, that will start on his home soil at this year's Copa America