Lionel Messi’s unworldly talent continues to amaze Gerard Pique, with a Barcelona team-mate branding the Argentine star “an alien”, “an assassin” and “the greatest”.
Since he first arrived at the famed La Masia academy as a 13-year-old, a remarkable skill set has left a lasting impression on all of those fortunate enough to have seen the mercurial talent in action.
Pique was among those to emerge through the ranks alongside Messi and has long since given up trying to explain how a unique performer continues to raise the bar year after year.
For those around him at Camp Nou, the 30-year-old forward is the finest player to ever lace up a pair of boots, with it impossible to compare him to anything this planet has seen before.
Pique told The Players’ Tribune of a five-time Ballon d’Or winner: “People often ask me what it has been like playing with Messi for so many years.
“If I had to explain it in one sentence: he is an alien. He is not from this planet.
“He’s the only player that I can recall seeing play for the first time, way back when we were 13 years old, and saying to myself: ‘Oh, this kid comes from somewhere else. This is not human.’
“He is an assassin. He’s the greatest I’ve ever seen.”
It is not just Messi’s goalscoring exploits or his ability on the ball which has impressed Pique either, with a diminutive figure having retained his desire to be a team player down the years.
A World Cup-winning defender added: “People ask me: ‘What’s the most incredible thing I’ve seen Leo do on the pitch?’ And they expect me to tell them about him dribbling three defenders. And trust me, I have plenty of those stories.
“But for me, the reason that I know he’s from another planet is because of what happens when he doesn’t have the ball. Perhaps you can’t see it on TV, but I can see it on the pitch.
“You have to see his face when he’s sprinting to win the ball back from a defender. He has a look in his eyes that I haven’t ever seen in another footballer. It is what makes him so great.
“He is not interested in the spectacle. He rarely even does stepovers. He’s cut from a different cloth. His greatness is in his obsession with winning the ball.”
Messi has added another 35 goals to his remarkable haul this season, taking him to 542 in total for Barcelona and alongside eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo in an elite group of players to have found the target 100 times in Champions League competition.