Andres Iniesta can see no end to Lionel Messi’s brilliance and believes Barcelona’s record goalscorer can continue to dominate the game for many years to come.
The Argentina international is showing few signs of slowing down in his 30s and is on course to claim a third straight Golden Shoe for the most league goals in Europe.
Messi has 33 in all competitions with Barca still fighting on three fronts as the twilight of the season approaches.
They lead the La Liga table by seven points from Atletico Madrid, face Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg on Wednesday and must bypass Lyon to reach the Champions quarter-finals.
Iniesta watched the 31-year-old progress from La Masia into the first team and then become arguably the club’s greatest ever player, and feels there is no stopping Messi in his current form.
“I continue to enjoy his game,” said the Spain World Cup winner. “He is and remains an exceptional player who makes the difference.
“He scores more goals than anyone else and still gives a lot of assists. He can do whatever he wants, as long as he wants.”
Alongside Messi’s heroics in the final third, goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen is regarded as Barca’s most important player.
Amid the club’s troubles at the back, the German has been key to the recent clean sheets against Athletic Bilbao and Lyon.
Ter Stegen pulled off fine saves in both games to secure draws for Ernesto Valverde’s men – two of 13 shut-outs made this season.
Having played alongside the 26-year-old for four seasons at Camp Nou, Iniesta is confident Ter Stegen is one of the best stoppers around.
“He is an extraordinary person,” added Iniesta. “We always sat next to each other on the team bus and had a very good relationship. Marc-Andre is a phenomenal guy.
“For me, he is definitely one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He plays a spectacular season and makes a very safe impression.
“He has quick reflexes and instinctively almost always does everything right. He’s also strong on the ball. I think his playing style will be the benchmark for the coming years.”