Ivan Rakitic believes Lionel Messi is the undisputed best player in football and "on another level" to anyone else who has played the game.
The pair enjoyed a hugely successful period at Barcelona together, winning four La Liga titles, one Champions League, and four Copa del Rey titles from 2014 to 2020 before Rakitic moved back to Sevilla in the summer.
Messi is regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player ever to grace a football pitch, winning multiple domestic leagues, multiple Champions League titles, and six Ballon d'Or trophies.
For Rakitic, there is no doubt that Messi is the best.
"One hundred per cent football," the Croatian responded when asked by FIFA.com what the name Messi means to him.
"It doesn’t matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He’s on another level.
"With all respect to the other greats, there’s only one number one – it’s Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream.
"I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: ‘Thank you for everything, Leo, because you’ll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you.'"
After the appointment of Ronald Koeman in the summer, Rakitic was deemed surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou and was subsequently sold back to Sevilla for a nominal fee.
He looks back on his time in Catalunya with pride, though, as he knows he is part of the history of the club.
"Six years, 311 games – the foreigner with the fourth-most games after Messi, Dani Alves and Mascherano – 13 titles. I think I can say that I’m part of the history of the club," he added.
"I got so much out of those six years. I will have Barcelona – the club, the city, the people – in my heart for the rest of my life. My family got bigger there – my youngest daughter was born in Barcelona.
"I’m really proud of my time there and will always cherish it."
Rakitic has already travelled back to the Camp Nou this season with Sevilla, who earned a commendable 1-1 draw at the start of October.
Los Nervionenses are currently down in 12th in La Liga.