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Lionel Messi: “Wayne Rooney is a once in a generation player”

FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2011

FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala 2011

Getty Images

Lionel Messi is a big fan of Wayne Rooney.

[ VIDEO: Messi scores superb equalizer vs. Mexico ]

Many tributes have flooded in for the Manchester United and England captain after the striker became England’s all-time leading goalscorer on Tuesday -- he scored his 50th goal in 107 games for the Three Lions to surpass Sir Bobby Charlton’s long-standing record -- but perhaps Messi’s glowing praise will stand out above them all.

Messi, the captain of Argentina and a Barcelona legend who has been crowned the best player on the planet on four different occasions, had the following to say about Rooney.

“Wayne Rooney is for me a once in a generation player. One of those special players, who is not comparable to any other,” Messi said. “There are many special players, but Rooney has exceptional quality and technical ability as well as being one of the strongest players I have faced with an exceptional work rate - there is nobody like him.”

With Messi, 28, just a year younger than Rooney, we have barely seen their talents grace the same field over the years with only fleeting appearances against each other in the UEFA Champions League and on the international stage.

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However, if Messi rates Rooney so highly, does he deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the Argentine magician, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Luis Suarez in terms of his greatness?

In a few years time, despite all the doubts and off-the-field issues during his 13-year career to date, fans of England and United may well look back and realize they didn’t truly appreciate what they had with Rooney until he’s gone.

Hey, at least Messi appreciates Wazza.

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