KEY POINTS

  • Lautaro Martinez has called Lionel Messi "the best in the world"
  • Martinez made his Argentina debut in 2018
  • Messi wanted Barcelona to sign Martinez last summer

Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez termed his Argentina skipper Lionel Messi as the "best player in the world", who is on "another level".

Before Messi’s transfer saga with Barcelona, it was believed the skipper was pushing the club to sign his compatriot Martinez, who had a release clause of $128 million at Inter Milan. Due to the financial crisis infused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Catalans failed to trigger the release clause as Martinez is contracted with Inter Milan until 2023.

Ahead of Inter Milan’s 2020-21 Champions League opener against Borussia Monchengladbach, Martinez spoke to UEFA’s official website about playing alongside six-time Ballon d’Or winner, Messi, who has been Argentina’s captain since 2011.

"I know Leo more from the times we've been team-mates for the Argentine national team rather than from having come up against him. I've said it in the past, and will say it again now and in the future: he’s the best player in the world. The fact he's Argentinian is a source of pride for us and we always try to learn from him," said Martinez, who has represented Argentina’s senior team for 19 times since his debut in 2018.

"For me, he’s on another level – he understands the game in a different way and he’s always a step ahead of everyone else," added Martinez, who also heaped praise on another Argentinian Javier Zanetti.

After international duty, Lionel Messi could be rested for Barcelona this weekend with the Clasico coming up Lionel Messi Photo: POOL / Javier MAMANI

Zanetti, who represented Inter Milan for 19 seasons between 1995 and 2014, is currently serving as the vice-president of the San Siro side.

"Javier is a very important Inter man, and for us [players] as well because he passes down to us everything he’s experienced at this club. He did so to me when I first came to Italy. Whenever I've needed something, he’s always tried to help me. He always lends an ear and asks how I'm doing or gives me a hand with anything I might need. He's always there to make sure I'm alright inside the club and outside too," said Martinez before mentioning Zanetti also helped him with the language when he first arrived at Inter Milan.