Ronaldinho was one of the first people on the planet to predict that Lionel Messi would become one of the world’s truly great players.
Back when the Brazilian was at the peak of his powers, in 2005, he told reporters that he wasn’t the best player in world football because he wasn’t even the best at the Camp Nou.
He was, of course, referring to a teenage Messi who, at this point, was still a relatively unknown quantity outside of Barcelona.
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At the time it sounded like a humble but, ultimately, hyperbolic comment from the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year.
Ronaldinho, with the exception of Zinedine Zidane, was streets ahead of everyone else on the planet and Messi, while obviously talented, had a long way to go before he could be compared to his teammate.
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Ronaldinho was spot on about Messi
But it turned out that Ronaldinho wasn’t being overly modest; he genuinely believed it.
Messi, of course, would go on to become the best player of his generation and arguably the finest footballer of all time.
Ronaldinho: Messi is the best of his era
But is there a player that Ronaldinho sees reaching the same level as or even surpassing Messi over the next few years?
The 36-year-old claims there is one player who can scale the same heights as the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, although he stops short of saying it’s possible to soar even higher than the Argentina international.
Asked if Messi is the best player in history, Ronaldinho is quoted by Catalan newspaper Sport as saying: “Every era has its best player. Each one was the best of their time. And Leo is the best of now.”
Ronaldinho: Neymar can reach Messi's level
The topic of conversation then turned to Neymar.
“I think he will reach Leo's level,” Ronaldinho admitted. “He's going to be the best in time. He's young and he's won a lot. Like many others, though, he's unfortunate to be around in the era of Messi.”
Neymar certainly has the talent to go close to Messi’s level, but the Brazilian must become even more consistent in order to do that.
The former Santos star, now 24, has been perfectly content to remain in Messi’s shadow since arriving at the Camp Nou in the summer of 2013, but eventually emerging as the club’s main man will be vital if he’s to establish his status as an all-time great.
Can Neymar reach Lionel Messi’s level or will he fall short? Have your say by leaving a comment below.