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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Francesco Totti on Mohamed Salah: 'I consider him one of the best players around the world'

Roma legend, speaking at the 12th Dubai International Sports Conference, described Liverpool winger as a 'formidable player'

Francesco Totti, former player of Roma, attends the Dubai International Sports Conference in Dubai. Satish Kumar / Reuters
Francesco Totti, former player of Roma, attends the Dubai International Sports Conference in Dubai. Satish Kumar / Reuters

Francesco Totti says former teammate Mohamed Salah has emerged as one of the best players in world football.

The Egyptian, 25, has been in sensational form since joining Liverpool from Roma this summer, scoring 21 goals and registering six assists in 27 matches across all competitions.

In the Premier League alone, Salah sits second in the race for the Golden Boot, behind Harry Kane, with 15 goals.

Totti knows Salah well having spent the two previous seasons together at Roma. In May, the Italian brought down the curtain on his 25-year professional career in Rome, introduced as a second-half substitute for Salah in the 3-2 home victory against Genoa.

The following month, Salah made the reported €39 million (Dh171m) transfer to Liverpool and has go on to form a hugely prolific attacking quartet alongside Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane.

Asked about Salah on Thursday at the 12th Dubai International Sports Conference, Totti said: “I consider him one of the best players at the moment around the world. He can make the difference. You can see him play at the maximum level also with Liverpool; he’s a formidable player.

“I have a very good relationship with him, I love him also as a person. So I thank him for what he has done for Roma.”

Although Totti rates Salah highly - he described the forward’s departure as a “joint decision” between the player and Roma - the 2006 World Cup winner said Barcelona’s Lionel Messi remains the best player in the game.

The Argentine, 30, missed out this month on a record-extending sixth Ballon d’Or, with the award going instead to Cristiano Ronaldo. With the prize, the Real Madrid striker moved level with Messi on five, meaning one of the pair has been voted the world’s best footballer every year for the past decade.

Messi’s former teammate, Carles Puyol, appeared alongside Totti in Dubai on Thursday and said, not only is Messi the greatest player at present, but of all time.

“Leo has dominated football since many years ago," Puyol said.

"For me, he is the best player in history, no matter if you belong to Barcelona or Real Madrid or Manchester United. In the end this is a reality. Messi is the best.”

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Asked who could break the duo’s stranglehold on the Ballon d’Or, Puyol added: “I think Neymar will be competing with them. He’s a young player; I like him a lot. Because of their characteristics, it’s difficult to get close Cristiano and Messi.

“But at the end of the day their performance will go down. It’s not about taking the trophy away from them. We have to keep on enjoying them. They set an example for many of us.

“Messi is so impressive. He’s won everything but he still has the same ambition, he’s still improving. And if Leo Messi does that other players have to do, too. He’s an example that even if you get to the top place in your career you can still evolve.”