Lionel Messi could win a seventh Ballon d’Or playing in the Premier League, according to Wayne Rooney.
The former Manchester United and England forward has admitted to being in “awe” of the 33-year-old Argentinian.
Messi stunned Barcelona earlier this week when he handed in a transfer request, sparking a flurry of speculation as to his next destination with Manchester City and Paris St Germain mentioned as possible destinations.
Asked if he would welcome Messi playing in the Premier League, 34-year-old Rooney told talkSPORT: “Every day of the week.
“I know he’s getting – I think he’s a year or two younger than me – he’s getting a bit older, but no-one has ever seen a player like him.
“There’s that debate of Messi or Ronaldo and Messi just has everything. He can create goals, score goals, he can dictate games.
“He’s the best player of all time and if he can come to the Premier League, I think whichever team it is – and I do believe it’s only Manchester City or Manchester United that can sign him…
“He could come to the Premier League and become player of the year, one million per cent, in my opinion.
“I don’t think he can do it for the next two or three years, but certainly for next season, if he surrounds himself with Kevin De Bruyne, with Bruno Fernandes, with these types of players, he can go and win his seventh Ballon d’Or, which is incredible.”
Rooney spent five seasons playing alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford after both were signed by Sir Alex Ferguson as teenagers, and has looked on as the Portugal international has since gone from strength to strength with Real Madrid and Juventus.
Ronaldo has rivalled the Barcelona superstar for billing as the world’s best footballer, but for Rooney, the South American shades the argument.
The Derby player-coach said: “He’s one of the only players I’ve ever sat there and watched just in awe of.
“I’ve played, obviously, with Cristiano and Cristiano – don’t get me wrong, everyone has their own opinions with Cristiano. The two of them have set a standard which I don’t think will ever be seen again, but for me, Messi is just different level.”
The bookmakers have installed City as favourites to land Messi despite Barca’s insistence that he is going nowhere, but Merseyside-born Rooney believes even his addition might not be enough should reigning champions Liverpool land Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara.
Commenting on next season’s title race, he said: “Chelsea are making a lot of signings – some good signings – Manchester United have a lot of potential in the players they’ve got, but I still think they’re a year away.
“I think Chelsea with the new signings will need possibly a year to get everyone on the same song sheet, so I do think it is between City and Liverpool.
“If Liverpool get Thiago from Bayern Munich I think that’s a better signing than Messi going to Manchester City.”