"Lionel Messi is the best" — that is the view of former Barcelona teammate David Villa.
Messi is often compared to past greats Pele and Diego Maradona amid the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's ongoing battle with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo for modern day supremacy.
Barcelona's all-time leading scorer has collected 28 trophies during his career at Camp Nou, while his overall count stands at 30 — thanks to Olympic gold and a successful World Youth Championship in 2005 — which is one clear of Pele following the Catalan club's Copa del Rey triumph in May.
Villa — now captain of MLS side New York City FC, having played alongside Messi for three years at Barcelona winning two La Liga titles and a Champions League crown — was asked to rank the 29-year-old alongside the greats.
In an interview with Omnisport, Villa said: "Messi is the best, for me."
Messi has the opportunity to further enhance his reputation after announcing his return to the Argentina national team, having sensationally retired following defeat in the Copa America Centenario final in June.
The 113-cap veteran and Argentina captain will now be at the disposal of new coach Edgardo Bauza for forthcoming South American World Cup qualifiers against Uruguay and Venezuela.
Prior to Messi's international U-turn, Villa had hoped to see the 29-year-old feature at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"I hope that he keeps playing because the World Cup in 2018 in Russia will not be the same without Messi," Villa added.
Prior to World Cup qualifying, Messi and Spanish champions Barcelona will face Sevilla over two legs in the Supercopa de Espana before kicking off their league campaign against Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao.