Franz Beckenbauer says that while Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, Pele remains the greatest of all time.
After an injury-hit 2014, Messi has returned to his brilliant best since the turn of year and made headlines all around the world with his stunning two-goal salvo in Barcelona's 3-0 win over Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie last week.
Beckenbauer was left in awe by the Argentine's brilliance at Camp Nou but the Germany icon says that Brazil legend Pele is still the greatest talent he has ever seen.
"Messi's amazing," the 69-year-old told L'Equipe. "For several months now, he has rediscovered his best form.
"For Barcelona, he is the one that makes the difference. Without Messi, Barcelona would be just another team.
"It's like when Bayern destroyed Barca in the semi-finals of the Champions League two years ago [winning 7-0 on aggregate] and Messi was not right.
"But now he is the best player in the world and of his time.
"However, the best ever is Pele. He is just ahead of Messi. I've never seen a player like Pele.
"I played with him at the New York Cosmos and you would give him the ball and just not see him again because he was too fast.
"Pele was all instinct."
Given his admiration for Messi's genius, Beckenbauer is unsurprisingly pessimistic about Bayern's chances of recovering from a 3-0 deficit in Tuesday's second leg in Bavaria.
"Our players are going to give their best and try everything to put pressure on Barca," the former sweeper stated.
"If we can score quickly and a certain atmosphere takes hold of the Allianz-Arena, then we do not know what could happen.
"But I will not hide that I have great doubts, especially because Barca are playing in an extraordinary way. We have seen that last Wednesday.
"The third goal [from Neymar] was terrible because, at 2-0 down, we had even a chance to catch up.
"But now, the tie seems doomed. Still, there are always miracles in life."
Despite his belief that Bayern are set to bow out at the semi-final stage for the second successive season under Pep Guardiola, Beckenbauer would like the Catalan to remain in Bavaria for a long time to come.
"Bayern are fortunate to have Pep," he added. "All of us at the club are impressed by his work.
"He has a true structure in the team. He has found the middle ground between his philosophy and that of Bayern.
"Personally, I hope he stays in Munich a long time. He has a contract for one more year and we want to extend it.
"He has great appeal when it comes to attracting players, so if he stays with us, I will be the happiest of men."