The former French great has hailed the Barca forward after the Argentine's incredible five-goal display in the 7-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday nightLionel Messi possesses a trait shared by only exceptional players, saying the Argentine retains the 'ingenuity of a child'.
Messi sensationally struck five times as Barcelona thrashed Leverkusen 7-1 at Camp Nou on Wednesday night to seal a 10-2 aggregate win and a place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Speaking at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona on Thursday, Cantona said: "Messi's play maintains a piece of his childhood and you see that when he is playing in front of thousands of people, there is a moment when he feels like a star.
"The great players are those who retain the ingenuity of a child."
Cantona added: "I have always thought that Barcelona's play was incredible but Messi's play is exceptional."
Cantona took up a role as director of football for the New York Cosmos in January 2011, and claims he will draw inspiration from former Barca boss Johan Cruyff.
"My idea is to do the same thing Cruyff did at Barca," he explained. "To work with kids who are together from the age of 13."