Former Barcelona captain Xavi says Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time, eclipsing the likes of Pele and Diego Maradona.
Messi is the clear favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for the fifth time in January, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski also in contention.
And Xavi believes football has evolved to such an extent that his ex-team-mate now ranks as the best player in the sport’s history.
“Pele and Maradona both made a huge difference, but football has evolved,” Xavi told ESPN.
“The players are better than they were, the game is better. Physically, tactically, technically and psychologically, football is better than ever.
“And Messi stands out as the best at the best time in the history of football.”
Xavi credited Ronaldo for helping to push Messi to the heights he has reached, suggesting the pair need the challenge of each other’s presence to keep breaking new ground.
“He would not be as good without Ronaldo,” the Al Sadd midfielder added. “He wouldn’t have won all those Ballons d’Or and I don’t think Ronaldo would have won them all too. They push each other.
“The difference between the two is that, while they’re both great goalscorers, Messi is much more involved in the play of the team.”