Barcelona midfielder Carles Alena has refused to accept Lionel Messi coming fifth in the votes for the Ballon d'Or in 2018, while also believing the club's academy system is still 'bearing fruit'.
Alena, 21, has enjoyed a breakout season for Ernesto Valverde's side, making 17 appearances in all competitions and scoring once, while his performances have seen him earn a place in Spain's latest Under-21 squad for the latest round of international fixtures, resulting in his first cap.
The midfielder has also had a better view than most of what's been yet another glorious season for Messi, who is the top scorer in both La Liga (29) and the Champions League (eight), as well as topping the Spanish league for assists (12), and Alena believes the Argentinian's fifth-place finish in the 2018 Ballon d'Or voting, that was won by Luka Modric, was unjust.
Speaking to Marca, he said: "My words have run out for Messi and I've only worked closely with him for a year.
"He has left me without adjectives. He's No.1, there are no comparisons. They've all finished.
There are no more Ballon d'Ors, nor is he the fifth best in the world. People think it's a joke but it's reality.
"He's the best and he has been for 12 years. He's broken all the records. There are great players, but there won't be any more like him. All that's left to know is how many more years he'll be at this level."
Alena also discussed Barcelona's academy system, La Masia, and quashed any talk that it has faltered in recent seasons, insisting that graduates such as Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Messi during a similar time is 'unique'.
He added: "Work always bears fruit. People say the essence has been lost, but they're always rushing youth players to succeed. People have the generation of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Messi in their minds but that was unique and we have to be aware that it will never be repeated.
"You have to give opportunities to the young payers and then they'll know the level required. It's the best team in the world. I'm happy to move through all of these stages and to be fulfilling a dream."