Barcelona defender Gerard Pique says that Lionel Messi’s consistency makes him a better player than Diego Maradona.
The two footballing greats have often been compared to one another, having both played for Barcelona and Argentina.
However, while Pique has high praise for Maradona’s achievements, he believes the longevity of Messi’s top-level performances marks him out as the best.
"Maradona was a unique player in the history of football, he went through Barca and Napoli, he will be remembered forever,” Pique said in a press conference.
“But if you ask me to choose between Leo or Diego, I would say Messi because of his consistency and the magic he produces on a daily basis."
Barcelona head coach Quique Setien also had special words of praise for his star player ahead of their meeting with Maradona’s former club Napoli.
"Messi is a great football player, he has been standing out for 15 years in every single game, that makes him different from the rest,” Setien said.
“We have not seen a player with such consistency. I also enjoyed Maradona, Cruyff and other football players who made us love this sport.”
The first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie in Italy on Tuesday night comes right before a potentially title-deciding clash with Real Madrid in La Liga, and Pique is certain that he and his team-mates cannot afford to save themselves for El Clasico, but that working hard for a positive result is more beneficial for their domestic encounter.
"The result of tomorrow's game will somehow influence the Clasico,” Pique continued. “If we want peace of mind, we have to win and keep winning and play well.”
However, the centre-back accepts that Napoli will pose a serious threat and that the team must go out with the right mentality in both legs in order to avoid throwing away a lead and being knocked out as they were against Roma and Liverpool.
"We will never forget Roma and Liverpool, but from the big defeats you can get positive things and look to the future, with that experience we will know how to face everything that comes, things we have learned.
"We fear many things about Napoli, they have improved in recent weeks, they have very good players like [Dries] Mertens and [Lorenzo] Insigne. They will cause us trouble if we don't go out with the right mindset."