Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol called Barcelona star Lionel Messi the best player in the world in an interview with Barça TV on Friday.
“For me, he’s the best player in the world, a fantastic player,” Gasol said. “He’s out of the ordinary. He’s a player who’s defined a generation, and he will be a reference point for the rest of the history of the game.”
Gasol, who is from a small town outside of Barcelona and played for the city’s basketball team, credited Messi with the growth of interest in soccer in the United States.
“Football, as a global phenomenon, is growing a lot in the United States, and players like him make the fans want to go see him play,” Gasol said. “He’s the best in the world, a true superstar, one of a kind. He’s marked an era and will be a historical reference....Hopefully he’ll finish his career at Barça.”
Gasol began his basketball career with Barcelona in 2000 before coming to the U.S. in 2001 when the Atlanta Hawks selected him with the third pick of the 2001 NBA draft.
He will play in his sixth NBA All-Star Game on Saturday in Toronto.
- Erin Flynn