'Messi's shorts could swallow him!' - Venables salutes genius of Barcelona's 'Dickensian character'

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A former manager at Camp Nou believes the mercurial Argentine forward remains the finest performer on the planet, regardless of what others may think

Lionel Messi may look like “a Dickensian character” whose shorts could “swallow him”, but former Barcelona boss Terry Venables considers the Argentine to be a “genius” and the world’s best.

An iconic figure at Camp Nou has dominated the global scene for over a decade now, with Real Madrid talisman Cristiano Ronaldo the only man to have emulated his achievements.

The pair have been embroiled in a long-running battle for supremacy, with countless records and major silverware shared between them.

Venables, though, is in no doubt as to who he considers to be the finest performer on the planet, with Messi having made a mockery of his diminutive stature to become a sporting giant.

A man who spent three years in Catalunya between 1984 and 1987 told the Daily Mail: “Look, if we're in the playground now and we are picking sides, you could pick between Salah, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Salah would be third pick. 

“A good third, mind. Cristiano with his muscle and showmanship, like a gladiator. Power. He's some player. But it would still be Messi as No. 1 for me.

“Those shorts of his look like they should swallow him. He's like a Dickensian character. But he's a genius with a ball. I'd pick him as No. 1 every time.”

While considering Messi to be the pick of those on the field, Venables sees the best of those off it to also have strong Barcelona ties.

Pep Guardiola is back on the trophy trail at Manchester City, with a manager who has previously proved his worth in Spain and Germany now an English champion and Carabao Cup winner.

Pep Guardiola Mikel Arteta Domenec Torren

Ex-England boss Venables said of the Catalan: “He doesn't need me to tell him what to do because this man is special. But I would like to see him stay, to win more trophies, to create a dynasty.

“He is faultless as a coach. Faultless. As a coach, as a teacher, as a man.

“People say he has won because he has been at Barcelona, Bayern, now City, but you can't just buy titles and success, not playing the way his teams play. Long may it continue.

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“Players are drawn to Spain, to Real and Barcelona, so he is very important to our game in England. Because we have the No. 1 coach.

“[Jurgen] Klopp too is impressive. He could win the European Cup and I do hope this happens. He's behind Guardiola, but so is everyone else.

“Pep is a giver, a leader of the orchestra. I hope everyone can see that and appreciate it. I am thrilled to watch him succeed, it completes the set for him.”