Michael Owen has hailed ex-Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard as 'second only to Zinedine Zidane' of all the players he has worked alongside.
Gerrard was the Anfield club's saviour in their 3-2 win over Fulham on Wednesday as his stoppage time penalty completed a turnaround for Brendan Rodgers' side at Craven Cottage.
It capped off a memorable week for the England captain, who also provided the assists for two of the Reds' goals in their 5-1 drubbing of Arsenal last weekend that has seen them emerge as dark horses in the race for the Premier League title this season.
Owen rose through the ranks at Anfield alongside Gerrard and writing in his column for the Daily Telegraph, the former Real Madrid, Manchester United and Newcastle striker says that his fellow Academy graduate is only surpassed by the legendary Zidane in his abilities.
He said: "I have played alongside some of the greatest footballers of my generation, but there is only one ex-team-mate I would rate higher than Steven Gerrard. The biggest compliment I can give him is he is second only to Zinedine Zidane in terms of his world-class status.
"Since the first time I saw Stevie play, as an 11-year-old in the Liverpool youth ranks, it has been obvious how much ability he possessed to become the complete, modern footballer.
"The reason I would have been reluctant to put him there in previous years is he is too good for the job. You want your most dynamic players making a difference in the final third, not protecting the defence. It is difficult for a player whose natural instinct is to bomb forward, creating and scoring goals to stay disciplined and hold back."
Earlier this season Gerrard joked that he would cover half his body in tattoos if it meant that he could lift the Premier League but turned down offers earlier in his career to join both Chelsea and Manchester United at the height of their title-winning exploits in order to stay with Liverpool.
But Owen, who was part of the United side that were crowned champions in the 2010-11 season, feels that winning the title once with his boyhood club would vindicate spurning those overtures.
"If he could lift that trophy just once at Anfield, it will mean more to him than had he won it many times elsewhere. It would also ensure, when he assesses his career many years from now, he would regret nothing", he added.
image: © Raphaël Labbé