Few footballers - if any - have played alongside Lionel Messi on more occasions than his Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique.
The two superstars, who both celebrate their 31st birthdays this year, grew up together in Barça’s famed La Magia youth academy and went on to win everything with the senior side after Pique returned to the Camp Nou after four years with Manchester United in 2008.
Pique has always been hugely complimentary of Messi and believes the Argentine maestro is the best player in history - even though he also played alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford and has been on the opposing team as the Real Madrid icon on countless occasions over the past 10 years.
"For me it's like Messi is not human but Cristiano is the best of the humans,” Pique said back in 2016.
The Spanish World Cup winner has also reserved special praise for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in his brilliant column for The Players’ Tribune.
Pique started by saying: “For example, people often ask me what it has been like playing with Messi for so many years. If I had to explain it in one sentence: He is an alien.
“He is not from this planet."
Pique: What I thought when I first saw Messi play
“He’s the only player that I can recall seeing play for the first time, way back when we were 13 years old, and saying to myself, “Oh, this kid comes from somewhere else.
"This is not human.
“He is an assassin. He’s the greatest I’ve ever seen. But, you see, it’s not about the way he attacks.
"People ask me, “What’s the most incredible thing I’ve seen Leo do on the pitch?” And they expect me to tell them about him dribbling three defenders. And trust me, I have plenty of those stories.”
Pique: What Messi does that you can't see on TV
Pique then went on to reveal what Messi does that sets him apart from every other footballer - and it’s something that you can’t see simply by watching Barcelona or Argentina on TV.
“But for me, the reason that I know he’s from another planet is because of what happens when he doesn’t have the ball,” Pique added. “Perhaps you can’t see it on TV, but I can see it on the pitch. You have to see his face when he’s sprinting to win the ball back from a defender. He has a look in his eyes that I haven’t ever seen in another footballer.
“It is what makes him so great. He is not interested in the spectacle. He rarely even does stepovers. He’s cut from a different cloth. His greatness is in his obsession with winning the ball.
“Maybe that doesn’t make for a great headline. But when I think about Messi’s true magic, it’s not in something you can find on YouTube. It’s about a subtle expression in his eyes. His greatness would take me another 5,000 words to explain. Perhaps in another article!”
We look forward to reading it, Gerard.
There’s a brilliant video on YouTube showing some of Messi’s incredible - and underrated - movement off the ball.
Watch it here…
Yet more evidence that Messi is, like Pique said, an alien.
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: https://www.givemesport.com/writeforgms