Lionel Messi is “the best player ever – with or without a World Cup”, says Cesc Fabregas, with the Barcelona superstar considered to be more “complete” than Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
It is rare for two iconic figures and serious contenders to the title of the greatest of all time to be competing in the same era, but that is what a modern day audience have been treated to.
Messi and Ronaldo have shared 10 Ballons d’Or between them during a decade of dominance, while collecting countless domestic and European honours with their respective club sides.
The latter has also tasted international success at Euro 2016 with Portugal, but the former is back chasing down a World Cup crown on Russian soil this summer after enduring a number of near misses with Argentina in the past.
Regardless of whether Messi proves successful in that pursuit, former Barca team-mate Fabregas believes the mercurial 30-year-old will be remembered as the finest player to have played the game, telling the Daily Telegraph: “For me, Leo will always be the best player ever, with or without the World Cup.
“Of course, I know when we talk in 20 or 30 years, if you win the World Cup, the future generations who do not watch him now will be even more clear on the fact Leo was the best because they can say ‘he won a World Cup’.
“But people who have played with him or know about football will tell you he is the best and the most complete player ever.
“Cristiano is fantastic and everyone admires him for what he does, the guy is a competitor.
“But talent-wise and when we talk about the complete player, Leo became the best goalscorer ever, became the best passer ever, he can score with both feet, his head, he can dribble around four players.
“He has vision to make assists, he is the most complete ever, no doubt.
“People want to put Leo up against Cristiano and of course they both need each other to make themselves better, but we are talking about different teams, different groups, different moments.
“I think they just respect each other and get on with it. It’s been going on too long for either of them to get annoyed by it.”
Ronaldo was back among the goals in his last World Cup outing, taking his tally for the tournament to four with the winner for Portugal against Morocco, while Messi will take to the field with Argentina on Thursday when they go in search of a much-needed victory against Croatia.