Cesc Fabregas has claimed that anyone who has ever played with Lionel Messi, as he did for the first time in the Barcelona youth academy 18 long years ago, will know that the Argentine is the greatest player of all time, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo, ‘with or without the World Cup’.
International glory is the one thing that has always eluded Messi in his career to date, something which he may struggle to rectify at this summer’s World Cup.
Giving his thoughts in a column for the Daily Telegraph, Fabregas says it matters little.
The Chelsea midfielder has admitted that winning a World Cup now would help secure Messi’s place in history for future generations of fans who won’t have had the chance to see him play, but that does not change how ‘complete’ a player he is.
“People who have played with him or know about football will tell you he is the best and the most complete player ever,” Fabregas explained.
“Cristiano is fantastic and everyone admires him for what he does, the guy is a competitor. But talent-wise and when we talk about the complete player, Leo became the best goalscorer ever, became the best passer ever, he can score with both feet, his head, he can dribble around four players. He has vision to make assists, he is the most complete ever, no doubt.”
Fabregas was just 13 years of age when he encountered Messi on a football pitch for the first time, and was actually given instruction to try and kick the tiny newcomer off the ball by his Barça coach.
“The coach split us into pairs and he told me ‘listen, you can’t let this boy get past once. You have to kick him until he doesn’t want to play anymore.’ I was a bit surprised because we were only 13, but Leo was so small I did not think it was going to be any problem,” Fabregas said.
“I was confident he was not going to get past me, but straight away he left me on the floor with his first go. It is something I will always remember, his one-on-one was amazing already at that age. I made sure I did the exercise with someone else after that.”