Messi and Rooney have faced off four times with Barcelona and Manchester United, and the Argentine says there is a great mutual respect between the pair
Lionel Messi has thrown his weight behind Wayne Rooney’s claim for a spot in England’s Euro 2016 squad, describing the Manchester United man as the greatest English player of his generation.
Rooney has been missing for the last two months with a knee injury and there have been calls for him to be left behind when Roy Hodgson’s men fly to France for this summer’s tournament.
The performances of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy in the Three Lions’ dramatic friendly win over Germany last month did nothing to quell those calls, but the world’s greatest player is adamant the 30-year-old can still do a job for his country.
“There has always been a great deal of respect between myself and Wayne Rooney,” Messi told 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 said it will take “an awful lot” for him to leave Rooney out when the Euros come round.
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 have a scan on his knee injury this week to determine how far away he is from returning to action.
The Telegraph claim Rooney could be in for a surprise recall to United’s squad for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Tottenham if the results of the scan are positive.