An XI of world-class footballers summing up Lionel Messi's greatness

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We're running out of compliments for Barcelona's Lionel Messi.

Monday night marked his sixth victory in the Ballon d'Or, beating Virgil van Dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo to the prestigious trophy at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.

Now, Messi is head and shoulders above the competition as the most successful player in Ballon d'Or history and has moved clear of Ronaldo despite being two years his junior.

And if the Argentine can maintain that lead in the years to come, it will prove a massive point in the argument that Messi is the greatest player in football history.

Messi could hang up his boots tomorrow and still take his seat amongst the footballing gods, it's just a case of whether he truly outshines players like Ronaldo, Pele and Diego Maradona.

Footballers on Messi

The general consensus certainly seems to be shifting in Messi's favour and even if we push the Ballon d'Or trophies to the side for a second, there's another way to pass judgement.

That's because BBC Sport have decided to celebrate Messi's victory by compiling an XI of footballers based on their famous quotes about the Barcelona star over the years.

Ranging from teammates to rivals to fellow legends, they make for brilliant reading and you can check out the BBC's full selection down below:

1. Gianluigi Buffon 

"I think it's unlikely that any human being again will repeat the numbers that Messi is getting."

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2. Juan Bernat

"Messi is the best player in the world. We'd have to kidnap him to stop him."

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3. Jerome Boateng

"Defending Messi one-on-one is not possible."

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4. Paolo Maldini

"When I see Messi playing, I think he should win the Ballon d'Or every year."

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5. Javier Mascherano

"Although he may not be human, it's good that Messi still thinks he is."

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6. Johan Cruyff 

"Messi will be the player to win the most Ballon d'Or in history. He will win five, six, seven. He is incomparable."

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7. Luis Figo

"For me, to watch Messi is a pleasure - it's like having an orgasm."

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8. Diego Maradona

"His potential is limitless and I think he's got everything it takes to become Argentina's greatest player."

Argentina's striker Lionel Messi (R) is

9. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

"He plays like he's on PlayStation, it's unbelievable. People who say otherwise either don't know anything about football or are just talking nonsense."

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10. Ronaldinho

"This award [2006 Ballon d'Or] says I'm the best player in the world, but I'm not even the best player at Barcelona."

Barcelona's Brazilian midfielder Ronaldi

11. Wayne Rooney

"Messi is a joke. For me, the best ever."

Barcelona´s forward midfielder Lionel Me

Messi: The greatest of all time

So many great players and so many great things to say about Messi.

While fan and media opinion will always be important in the 'beautiful game', it's the practitioners themselves that know the sport best and so many of them point towards Messi as the greatest.

For so many years, much of the appreciation for Messi has been born in subjectivity - just like the opinions given above - with simply a visceral admiration for his style of play. 

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However, even if you're not wowed by his performances, numbed by his brilliance and impartial to his magic, allow the objective to point in the same direction.

In other words, whether you appreciate Messi like a work of art or run through his statistics like mathematician, you'll come to the same conclusion: GOAT.

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