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The former Real Madrid director feels his fellow Argentine is one of the best players ever and says that the 26-year-old attacker is currently at his peak

Jorge Valdano has taken the time to praise Lionel Messi, describing the Barcelona star as "the first genius of the 21st century".

The 26-year-old Argentine - who is currently out of action with a hamstring tear - had been the subject of criticism in recent weeks as he struggled to hit his best form in La Liga, but Valdano insists that his compatriot has few equals in the history of the game.

"Messi seems like a very calm person to me. He was born to play football," the former Real Madrid director told RAC-1.

"There will only ever be a few players like him. He is the first genius of the 21st century in football.

"He has unprecedented precision and speed. He scores a lot of goal and is a real strategist when he plays slightly deeper."

Valdano then went on to discuss Messi's recent fitness issues and urged the Ballon d'Or holder to listen to his body and take the rest he needs, arguing that if he does so, he can continue playing at a high level for years to come.

"He has boundaries like any other human being. If you push your body, it's going to protest at some point and say it's been enough. He needs to relax," the ex-Argentina international argued.

"What happens in football is that people only talk about what's just happened. People are all of a sudden talking as if he's on the verge of his retirement, where in reality he is in the prime of his career."

Messi has netted 14 goals in 16 official appearances for Barcelona so far in 2013-14.

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