‘Messi starting to surpass Pele and Maradona’

Daniel Storey

Zico claims Lionel Messi is on the brink of becoming the greatest footballer of all-time as Arsenal prepare to face the Barcelona superstar.

Messi and Co head to the Emirates Stadium to tackle the Gunners in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, with his forward colleagues Luis Suarez and Neymar also sure to be a major threat in London.

But former Brazil playmaker Zico considers Messi as accomplished a player as there has ever been.

“He is starting to surpass the level of Pele, Garrincha, (Johan) Cruyff, (Franz) Beckenbauer and (Diego) Maradona,” Zico told Barca TV.

Argentinian Messi recently became the first player to reach 300 league goals in Spain, and at the age of 28 he could have many years left in the game.

He has delivered against Arsenal in the past, most memorably when scoring four at the Nou Camp against Arsene Wenger’s side in 2010.

With Suarez and Neymar now providing a further threat, Zico fears the worst for Arsenal over two legs.

“The trident is fantastic because they play as a team and suit each other perfectly,” Zico said, according to Barcelona’s website.

“Barca are favourites both in London and at Camp Nou.”