Lionel Messi may have gone two years without winning the Ballon d'Or, but the Barcelona attacker is even better now than he was when he was racking up the individual awards, says Pablo Zabaleta.
The Argentina international was named the world's best player for the fifth time when he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 2015, but has watched Cristiano Ronaldo beat him to the title twice since then.
Messi remains the star man for club and country, however, having powered the Catalan side to a La Liga and Copa del Rey double and he is set to finish as the league's top scorer this season, as his 34 goals put him far ahead of Ronaldo, on 25, with two games left.
At 30 years old, Messi is still getting better and has reached a unique level in the game, his Argentina team-mate says.
"Messi today is much better than when he won the five Ballon d'Or awards," ex-Manchester City right-back Zabaleta told DeporTV.
"He's a unique player, a type of player that we'll probably never see again.
"Seeing him develop is something that's difficult to believe."
Messi and Barca face a trip to Levante on Sunday before they close the season with a home game against Real Sociedad, looking to go undefeated in the 2017-18 La Liga campaign.