During one of Lionel Messi’s earliest interviews, the Barcelona maestro revealed that his idol was the diminutive Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar.
Aimar wasn’t the biggest or strongest attacking midfielder but he could dictate the tempo of matches with his glorious technique and range of passing. He also represented Argentina 52 times over a 10-year period.
Knowing that you're the boyhood hero of arguably the greatest footballer of all time must be a pretty special feeling and Aimar was all too happy to heap praise on the five-time Ballon d’Or winner during a recent interview with Goal.
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Aimar explained that Messi’s speed of thought sets him apart from the rest - and he believes the 28-year-old is to football what Michael Jordan was to basketball.
"Imagine if tomorrow you rent out a pitch and Messi comes along. As soon as he grabs the ball you know he's going to score on you or do something great," Aimar told Goal.
"He will make you better as well whoever plays with him. He does not play alone.”
Aimar: Messi's speed of thought makes him great
Aimar, who ended his career with River Plate last year, added: "I think that he thinks and acts at the same moment. Or maybe he even acts before he thinks. But the amazing thing is that, be it a final, semi-final or whatever, he plays knowing that he can decide the game," he considered.
"I think that is what Jordan used to do, he used to say he had missed more shots than he had made, but he shot all the same in order to win. Federer is another monster. They play a match and go for the lines knowing they could miss, but knowing as well as if they win it is for them, and if they lose too.
"Messi is like Jordan."
Messi - The best of all time?
If Messi’s career ended tomorrow he would still be remembered as one of the very best - if not the best - footballers of all time.
However, he still has potentially another 10 years before hanging up his boots; more than enough time to establish his status, in the eyes of the majority, as the greatest of all time.
Messi won't want the same regrets as Aimar
But more than going down as the best in history, Messi is desperate to win a major trophy with Argentina.
Aimar admits Argentina’s failure at the 2002 World Cup finals will always be his saddest moment in football.
"It all went wrong,” he added. “That team had been great in the qualifiers and had great players. Football is a mystery.
"[Roberto] Ayala got injured, and he was the best around. [Juan Sebastián] Veron was not fit, and he was the brain of the team. I still cannot offer a decent explanation.”
After going agonisingly close to lifting the World Cup in 2014, Messi will be hoping to finally land his hands on world football’s most prestigious trophy in Russia in two years’ time.
Will Lionel Messi lift the World Cup in 2018? Have your say by leaving a comment below.