LIONEL MESSI has been hailed as the best player in the world ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo by Phil Neville.
It comes with speculation linking Messi to Neville's Major League Soccer side Inter Miami.
The Argentine is in the final year of his contract at current club Paris Saint-Germain and despite links back to Barcelona it seems the MLS side have charged ahead in the race to secure his signature.
David Beckham is hoping to use the appeal of life in Miami to coax him to the club, while fellow co-owners Jorge and Jose Mas are leading the negotiations.
But whether the flattery of Neville – who signed a new deal to the end of the season with the club – will add to the appeal for the 35-year-old remains to be seen.
Asked about the football icon, Neville said: "I think that's hypothetical really. The best player in the world, I'm looking forward to seeing him play at the World Cup, alongside other great players."
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The "best player in the world" tag may come as a bitter hit to Man Utd star Ronaldo's own claim, with the pair playing alongside each other during the Portuguese star's fledgling years at Old Trafford.
It could also lead to Neville facing the same embarrassment as his brother Gary, after he was blanked by Ronaldo following criticism he levelled at his performances this season.
Regardless, Neville had high praise for Messi and his Argentine compatriots after seeing them when Inter Miami hosted a World Cup warmup fixture between Argentina and Honduras back in September – a game where Messi bagged a brace.
Neville said: "We actually let him inside our house about five, six weeks ago, when Argentina were here, I watched all the sessions to see those great players on our pitch.
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"It was something really special for the club.
"And I think when you talk about characters, when you talk about humility, when you talk about the right type of people, that Argentinian squad and staff were absolutely incredible.
"We had a little scrimmage against them, the MLS 2 [MLS Next Pro] side, you obviously saw the pictures of their players signing autographs; signing arms, signing legs, signing shoes.
"It was just the most incredible week. I think we're really lucky here."
The former Everton star led his star-studded Miami side to the play-offs, but they weren't able to progress beyond the first round.
But Neville remained optimistic about the club's future.
He added: "We've had Barcelona here, we've had Argentina here, we've got the US national women's team here now, some of the players are training out there now.
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"It's brilliant for this football club, and it shows the level of facility that we've got.
"I'm not going to speculate on any kind of transfer activity, but what I would say is that is exactly the type of character that I saw in that week, that those Argentinian players were a credit to their country, and to their profession."
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