Lionel Messi is one of the best soccer players to ever take the pitch, but he says comparisons between himself and basketball players should stay in his home nation. The Argentinian national and Barcelona superstar had some strong praise for Manu Ginobili, who he says is every bit the athlete he is.
Ginobili retired from professional basketball on Monday after 23 seasons, leaving behind a huge impact on basketball players all over the world. Many NBA players raved about Ginobili’s importance in the basketball world, but it turns out that Messi himself is a huge fan of his fellow countryman.
National pride is one thing, but Messi raved about Ginobili and expressed his appreciation for his legacy, both in the NBA and in his home country. Messi spoke to Macca about Ginobili and offered his own honors.
Messi was told that many people compare the two athletes, but he had his own comparison to make: Namely that people shouldn’t compare Ginobili to him, the comparison should go the other way around.
“It makes me very proud to hear a journalist say that Manu is the Messi of basketball, in fact they should say that I am the Manu of football,” Messi wrote, when describing the retired shooting guard.
It’s not the first time Messi has offered praise for Ginobili: in 2013 he noted his appreciation for the basketball star’s support for Messi after the 2011 Copa America in a biography about Ginobili. But saying Messi, one of two active players vying for the title of best soccer player on the planet, should be compared to Ginobili is about as big an honor as a soccer player can give a basketball player.
It’s always fun to see athletes praise one another across sports, and Messi’s praise of Ginobili is a good indiction of just how much the Spurs legend means to sports fans in Argentina. Soccer is far and away the biggest sport in the South American nation, but Ginobili is beloved and has changed the way sports fans there think about the sport. It’s clear that Messi, as huge an athlete as any in the world, is a fan himself.