Former Barcelona captain Xavi does not believe anyone will ever be able to match Lionel Messi's achievements because of the Argentinian's remarkable consistency.
Messi received his fifth Ballon d'Or on Monday having inspired Barcelona to five separate trophies in 2015, including a Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey treble.
Xavi, who was an established first-team player at the Camp Nou when Messi arrived on the scene, admitted his surprise the 28-year-old has become the player he is. The former Blaugrana midfielder does not believe he will ever be equalled, per El Pais (via Goal.com's Dom Farrell):
He was different [when I first saw him], but he was only 16 years old, so I thought he'd be good, but I knew that football is very complicated, that a lot of things interfere, I never imagined he'd be the best player in history.
Ever since I've known him he hasn't stopped evolving. He improved what he had and he has also turned himself into a goalscorer. He didn't use to score so much and now he scores everything, he takes free kicks. And, like Pep [Guardiola] says, he dominates every aspect of the game.
We'll never see something similar. Not only because of what he can do, but because of the time that he's been doing it for. Others have lasted two years, three; he seems to have no end in sight.
It is remarkable how consistently brilliant Messi has been over the last decade—and he still surely has a number of years left in his career.
His most recent Ballon d'Or win came after two consecutive years in which rival Cristiano Ronaldo had won the award, but Messi was undoubtedly the deserved victor for 2015, per Bleacher Report's Sam Tighe and Dean Jones:
Messi's consistency is staggering. In the last six years his lowest goal tally has been 45, with 2015 returning 52 goals, per Ladbrokes:
Lionel Messi... 2010: 60 goals 2011: 59 goals 2012: 91 goals 2013: 45 goals 2014: 58 goals 2015: 52 goals pic.twitter.com/rs3KULv9Vt— Ladbrokes (@Ladbrokes) December 30, 2015
However, he is so much more than just a prolific goalscorer. He is a creator—he provided 18 La Liga assists in 2014-15, per WhoScored.com—and the focal point through which Barca coordinate their devastating attacks.
Since his emergence at the club—he made his senior competitive debut in 2004 having joined La Masia as a 13-year-old—Barcelona have consistently been one of the top clubs in Europe.
Is Messi the best player in footballing history?
Xavi was one of the key players in Barca's initial rise to the top of the world game under Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola in the 2000s, but Messi has been one of the main reasons they have stayed there, competing every year for the top honours.
The 35-year-old Spaniard finally left the Camp Nou at the end of last season to join Qatari side El Sadd and thus has immense experience of playing alongside Messi in the formative years of his career.
As noted by Xavi, despite his inexorable rise to the top, the remarkable thing about Messi is he does not seem to be declining.
With Neymar and Luis Suarez now for company in the front line, Messi's Barca are arguably better than ever, and as long as the Argentina captain remains at his peak, there is no doubt that the Catalan giants will remain one of the world's best sides.