Messi hails 'fabulous' Neymar

Neymar and Lionel Messi (AFP)
Neymar and Lionel Messi (AFP)

Barcelona - Four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi has hailed his "fabulous" Barcelona team-mate Neymar on Thursday as a future Ballon d'Or winner.

A year after 22-year-old Neymar's arrival at Barcelona, the two South American stars are becoming increasingly at ease with each other on the pitch.

Their partnership has been one of the keys to La Liga leaders Barcelona's success so far this season with Neymar scoring four of his six goals from Messi passes.

Argentine Messi said his partnership with Neymar was becoming increasingly efficient as he hailed the Brazilian as "a great player".

"It's the second season that we're playing together and we're starting to know each other better," said Messi.

"As well this season the (Barca) strikers play more in the middle of the pitch so we can pick each other out more and find connections. It's a pleasure to play with him ... We've a very good relationship, he's a fabulous boy."

Messi added that their partnership was helped by "the freedom" that coach Luis Enrique gives the Argentine on the pitch.

"The coach told me I could go where I wanted. Sometimes I move back a little to try to make the final pass and to create," explained Messi.

Messi won the Ballon d'Or title four times between 2009 and 2012, but lost his crown last year to Real Madrid's Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo.

But he insisted that thoughts of reclaiming the title were far from his mind.

"I've repeated it several times, I'm not in competition with Cristiano. I play my game, I do my work and I'm not interested in rivalry with him or anyone else.

"Individual awards are those that matter least to me, I want to have a great year and make sure my team achieve their goals."

The Argentine added that he expected Neymar to win the title at some stage in the future.

"He's going to get it, through his qualities, the way he is, I've no doubt that he can at some time win it," said 27-year-old Messi.

"He has great potential, he's a player who has a lot of qualities and he can go as far as he wants. I'm lucky enough to rub shoulders with terrific players on the pitch and he's among them."

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