Sylvinho claims that Barcelona’s players always believed that Lionel Messi could win “five or six Golden Balls” from an early age.
The Argentine icon has won five Ballons d’Or in an esteemed career that has seen him become Barca’s record goalscorer – he has also earned the right to be labelled one of the greatest players ever to grace the game.
Sylvinho, a former Barca defender, vividly remembers Messi’s first day with the club, and says his talent was immediately obvious.
"How the time goes by,” he said in an exclusive interview with Goal. “Leo was sixteen the first day he came in. Rijkaard did a great job with him from the beginning, they both have a huge heart and understood each other quickly.
“The coach integrated him very well and Leo was fitting in perfectly, he was always a very intelligent person and he was helped along by Rijkaard.
“Leo also had a great admiration for Ronaldinho and Deco, and they both embraced him very much. He was the youngest player there, but we got along very well, he had a dazzling talent and quality, we thought he could win five or six Golden Balls.”
“In a footballer's career there are injuries and ups and downs, but he was not a normal player, he had an extraordinary potential both to create and to define plays.”
This season Barcelona are top of La Liga with 34 points from 12 games, and Messi has scored 16 goals in 19 appearances.