Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney have never played together, but the two stars of European football have a great mutual respect.
So, it will come as little surprise to hear that Messi, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner and arguably the greatest footballer of all time, has defended the under-fire Manchester United and England forward.
Messi has described Rooney as the ”greatest English player of the generation” and believes the 30-year-old would still “improve any squad in Europe”.
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“There has always been a great deal of respect between myself and Wayne Rooney,” Messi is quoted as saying by The Sun. “For me he is the great English player of the generation.”
The Barcelona superstar added: “What he is capable of doing on the field is very special.
“He is one of the few players that would improve any squad in Europe.”
Rooney has been poor this season
Perhaps Messi hasn’t watched too many of Rooney’s performances this season.
England’s record goalscorer has struggled for form and consistency, and has only managed to score seven goals in 22 Premier League appearances.
With the England national team impressing during the recent international break - specifically in the 3-2 win over Germany in Berlin - English football fans are divided over whether Roy Hodgson should include the Three Lions’ skipper in his squad for this summer’s European Championships in France.
It’s almost certain that Rooney, as captain, will be part of the squad; however, whether he starts over in-form duo Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy is the big dilemma for Hodgson.
Rooney: I've still got a 'few years' left
Despite the criticism, Rooney feels confident that he can still cut it at international level for another “few years”.
"Over the past two years my form for England has been really good. I've scored a lot of goals," Rooney told the PFA’s 4 The Player magazine, per BBC Sport.
"I'll keep trying to, first and foremost, help the team be successful and if I can score the goals to help achieve that then that'll be great.
"I've still got a few years left, I feel," he told the PFA's 4 The Player magazine. "I'm always just thinking about what comes next and making sure I'm at my best for the summer.
"I feel I'm a lot more patient now in my play. When I was younger I could be impatient and I'd end up in positions I didn't really need to be in."
Is Wayne Rooney still good enough for England and Manchester United? Have your say by leaving a comment below.