Roma defender Kostas Manolas has proclaimed that Lionel Messi is only the fifth best striker he has ever faced.
Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United have all been linked with the Greek in recent weeks, with the Catalans believed to be in pole position after the deal sending Thomas Vermaelen reportedly included a fee clause for Manolas.
Manolas named Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Barcelona man when asked to name the top five forwards he has faced.
“He [Messi] is not an out and out striker, so I haven’t marked him directly and it’s only because of that that I put him in fifth place in this list,” Manolas explained in an interview with Roma’s official website.
“But he speeds through opponents like bowling pins and in front of goal he always knows the right thing to do, whether it be to shoot or pass to an unmarked team-mate. He always finds the best way.”
Manolas went on to talk through the rest of the list, and the characteristics that made them so tough to face, including perhaps a surprising name in Benzema.
“Ibra is a force of nature, you practically can’t keep up with him during the match because he has an incredible physicality,” the 25-year-old continued.
“I faced Suarez this year in the 2015-16 Champions League against Barcelona. He is someone who wants to score and who sees the goal. He is ferocious, tough to keep at bay and lethal in front of goal.
“Benzema is also a difficult opponent. He is complete, because he is physically strong and very technical. When physicality and quality come together it isn’t easy to find the answer for us defenders.”
He was also highly complementary of Cristiano Ronaldo, a man who haunts Manolas after last season’s Champions League.
“[Cristiano] Ronaldo is a phenomenon. He has everything – dribbling, knows where the goal is, physical strength.
“During the tie against Real Madrid last year he had two chances across the home and away legs and he scored. Lethal.”