Messi and Rooney has faced each other 4 times with Barcelona and Manchester United, and the Argentine genius has revealed there is a mutual respect between them.
And the Barcelona superstar has thrown his support for Wayne Rooney to claim a much-deserved spot in England’s Euro 2016 squad, describing the Manchester United skipper as the greatest English player of his generation.
Rooney has been sidelined for the past two months with a serious knee injury and there have been repeated calls for him to be left alone when Roy Hodgson’s boys travel to France for this summer’s tournament.
The impressive performances of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in England’s thrilling friendly win against Germany last month actually did nothing to quell those calls, but the world’s greatest player is confident, the 30-year-old forward can still lead his country for more glory.
“There has always been a great deal of respect between myself and Wayne Rooney,” Messi told when speaking to Shortlist.
“For me he is the great English player of the generation.
“What he is capable of doing on the field is very special, and he is one of the few players that would improve any squad in Europe.”
England boss Hodgson last week also claimed it will take “an awful lot” for him to scrape Rooney when the Euros come around.
The 68-year-old said: “It would take a lot before I say to Wayne Rooney after his captaincy over two years, after 19 games and two defeats, that because I am being pushed to make a brave, bold decision and show what a fantastic forward-thinking and adventurous coach I am, I am leaving you out. It would take an awful lot.
“Wayne Rooney is the captain and has done extremely well.
“Most teams, if they are any good, don’t throw their captain out the first time a young player comes on the team and scores a goal unless the captain, for some reason, is playing so badly or doing so badly there is a clear reason for doing so.
“Rooney has never given us any reasons to do that and I expect him to get back to fitness, I expect him to start playing well again and I expect him to be on the plane to France.”
Rooney will undergo a scan on his knee injury this week to know how far away he is from returning to action.
Yesterday some reports suggested, he could be in for a surprise recall to van Gaal’s squad for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Tottenham would the results of the scan are positive.
But while the prospect of Rooney edging closer to a return is a boost for Roy Hodgson, the striker now faces a four-way fight over the remaining weeks of this season to claim a starting place in England’s front three for their Euro 2016 opener against Russia.
Hodgson wants to start the tournament with a front three and, unless injuries or a dramatic loss of form, Harry Kane and Danny Welbeck at the moment hold two of those positions.
It leaves Rooney fighting with Jamie Vardy, Adam Lallana, and Raheem Sterling for the final spot on one of the flanks as the season draws to a close.