Richard Buxton: There's only so much that Lionel Messi can do
Captain helps Argentina keep Copa America hopes alive, but he can't be performing miracles every day
Superhuman ability remains very much second nature for Lionel Messi.
One of football's greatest-ever players continues to make acts of last-gasp heroism appear ordinary.
For both club and country, he shoulders an unhealthy burden of responsibility.
Those indebted to his brilliance, however, are yet to draw from those routine bouts of inspiration.
Argentina have Messi to thank again for keeping their Copa America campaign alive, after scraping a 1-1 draw with Paraguay yesterday morning (Singapore time).
An eagle-eyed handball call by the video assistant referee (VAR) may have allowed the Albiceleste to equalise in Belo Horizonte, after Richard Sanchez had given Paraguay the lead.
The VAR seems to be the only helping hand their talismanic captain will receive while continuing to toil with his country at the Copa America in Brazil.
The Estadio Mineirao had already witnessed one of Messi's previous salvation attempts. A trademark jinking run and sweeping left-foot shot ensured that his homeland took maximum points during stoppage time of their World Cup Group F encounter with Iran at the 2014 World Cup.
Nearly five years to the day, the relief which greeted his spot-kick was no less palpable.
Every major tournament Messi graces, from the Champions League to the World Cup, carries an almost messianic following.
People travel from far and wide for a first-hand glimpse of his talent.
Those within the Argentina dressing room should be immune to his charm by now. Yet they are clearly as in thrall of their talisman as those gawping admiringly from the stands.
Argentina have been on the losing end of four of the previous five Copa America finals, with Messi present for all bar one of them.
He also dragged Argentina, single-handedly, to a World Cup final and the knockout stages of the next showpiece.
But it is still not enough.
It will never be enough.
Messi has already turned his back on Argentina once.
His retirement in 2016 may have lasted only 46 days, but it became a national emergency.
Statues were built in his honour while fans held up signs pleading "Don't go, Leo". Even the country's prime minister sought to intervene.
Uncertainty also hung over whether he would feature in Brazil, with a long hiatus between his last World Cup outing in Russia and his return for a March friendly with Venezuela.
Truthfully, few would begrudge him a second international walkout.
A cursory glance around the pitch in Belo Horizonte underlined why Messi is continuing to fight for a lost cause with a severely deficient Argentina side.
No matter now many times he valiantly tries to raise the bar, it ultimately drags him back down again.
Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron was allowed to torment Argentina's defence at will, tying Nicolas Tagliafico and Nicolas Otamendi in knots.
Once Argentina's latest tournament tribulations are over, Messi will invariably reassess whether he was right to reverse his international retirement.
His tireless endeavour deserves far greater rewards than an excessive reliance from navel-gazing teammates.
Days away from his 32nd birthday, he will be all too aware that his chance for glory with the Albiceleste is becoming increasingly unlikely.
Should he decide to walk away from the international stage again, no one can blame him.