LUIS Enrique has taken a swipe at critics who try to compare Lionel Messi with greats of the game using the number of “golden melons” won by the Barcelona star.
Messi finished runner-up to Cristiano Ronaldo in the race to win the 2016 Ballon d’Or, despite helping Barca to claim a second consecutive domestic double.
Ronaldo now sits one behind the Argentina captain in the all-time Ballon d’Or standings, with four wins to Messi’s five, while past greats Michel Platini, Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten are further back on three triumphs apiece.
But the Barca head coach has dismissed the notion of using individual prizes to compare Messi to stars of the previous century and insists there is no player in the modern game who will replicate the 29-year-old’s feats.
“Messi can play in any position he wants,” Luis Enrique told the club’s official TV channel. “He’s just different. It’s ridiculous that they’re comparing awards, golden melons, whatever it is that they want to compare.
“Not to take anything away from current players, no disrespect to anyone right now. I’m thinking about past players. There’s no comparison.
“Don’t forget to compare Messi to players from many years ago. The level of play was far inferior physically.
“Professional footballers are far more prepared these days, much stronger physically, in terms of skill, the coaches are much better and give much more info to the players.
“For a player to do this, in this era, there will never be another one like him.”
Barca head into 2017 with a six-point deficit to La Liga leaders Real Madrid, though they remain in the hunt to win the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
Luis Enrique knows that winning trophies is expected of him by Camp Nou supporters and believes they have every chance as their style of play is the best on offer.
“Winning titles at this club is habitual nowadays. It’s something Barca fans have become accustomed to over many seasons,” he said.
“Seeing the motivation with which the team trains, in spite the usual highs and lows over the season, makes you optimistic.
“I think we play the best football, we have the clearest ideas, but it has to pay off throughout the season. And that’s what we expect.”