Former Camp Nou defender Juliano Belletti has compared the four-time Ballon d’Or winner with the Brazilian legend.
The Brazilian played alongside the current Blaugrana talisman for three years when the Argentine first broke into the Catalan club’s first team from 2004 to 2007.
Since then Messi has gone on to be crowned the world’s best player on four occasions, while winning countless team and personal accolades with Barcelona.
Although the 28-year-old’s club success has not been translated on the international scene, Belletti feels that the Argentina captain is the equivalent of Brazilian great Pele.
"Messi is the Pele of our generation,” Belletti told Sport.
“I do not understand the criticism he receives in his own country. You can not criticise a player like Messi.
“But it also happened to Ronaldinho in Brazil."
Messi was the driving force in Barcelona winning a momentous treble last term in Luis Enrique’s first campaign in charge of the famous Catalan club.
He is widely acknowledged as the standout frontrunner for this year’s Ballon d’Or award, which would take his personal tally to an unmatched five accolades.
Messi is currently on holiday after playing for Argentina in the Copa America over the summer, in which the Albiceleste were beaten on penalties by competition hosts Chile.