Lionel Messi “does everything and more that Diego Maradona could do”, claims Gary Lineker, with the Barcelona captain considered to top an iconic countryman and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Back in his playing days, Lineker locked swords with Maradona on a World Cup stage.
The enigmatic Argentine dashed England’s dreams in 1986, with a legendary brace seeing the finest talent of that era knock in one effort with his hand before scything through the Three Lions to record one of the greatest goals of all time.
There was no doubting Maradona’s standing in the game at that time, with Messi the closest Argentina have come to producing a player of similar ilk.
In the eyes of former Barca striker Lineker, a man with five Ballons d’Or to his name has already passed a legendary compatriot, with his consistency considered to make up for a lack of international honours.
For Lineker, Messi is the finest performer of this or any other generation, with the 31-year-old capable of producing moments of magic that even the likes of eternal rival Ronaldo can only dream of delivering.
“I never thought I'd see a better player than Diego,” Lineker, who spent three years at Camp Nou in his playing days, told talkSPORT.
“Maradona was unbelievable. I was so much in awe of him, as was everybody in those days.
“Messi does everything and more that Maradona could do. His goalscoring ratio is near enough a goal a game, whereas Diego's is about one in two, which is still very good in those days. It's a little bit easier now.
“But also, Messi is the best dribbler I've ever seen and he's as good of a passer as I've ever seen.
“Diego was great at both of those things, but when you take into account the longevity that Messi's done it for. Around 15 years at the same level.
“I’m a massive fan of Ronaldo but watching Messi makes me feel joyous. Messi can do four or five things in a game that get you off your seat.”
Barca will be hoping to see Messi at his talismanic best again this season, with an untimely knock suffered over the summer having delayed the start of his 2019-20 campaign.
Ernesto Valverde does have plenty of cover, with Antoine Griezmann snapped up from Atletico Madrid while 16-year-old sensation Atsu Fati has stepped up seamlessly onto a senior stage.