Lionel Messi is the only number one in football as former Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic hailed the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Rakitic won 13 trophies, including four LaLiga titles and the Champions League, alongside superstar captain Messi at Barca before returning to Spanish rivals Sevilla at the start of the season.
Messi – Barca’s all-time leading scorer – is regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and Rakitic lauded the 33-year-old attacker, who has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.
“One hundred per cent football. It doesn’t matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He’s on another level,” Rakitic told FIFA.com.
“With all respect to the other greats, there’s only one number one – it’s Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream.
“I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: ‘Thank you for everything, Leo, because you’ll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you’.”
Messi’s future remains an important topic at Barca after he handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.
Argentina’s all-time leading scorer and captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain, though he has since been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.
Messi returned to Barca to work under new head coach Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for him.
He has scored three goals in seven LaLiga games this term, while he has six across all competitions.
Messi’s minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.
Barca – eighth in LaLiga and nine points off the pace – travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday following the international break.
Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 LaLiga appearances against Atletico under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most LaLiga goals against goalkeeper Jan Oblak (eight goals in 11 games).