Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino described Mousa Dembele as a “genius” as he compared the midfielder to Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho.
Dembele arrived from Fulham in 2012 after a fierce battle for his signature but the Belgium international is only now showing his quality on a consistent basis.
The 29-year-old is a key member of Tottenham’s side and Pochettino believes he is in the same bracket as two of the game’s greats.
“Mousa Dembele is completely different to two-and-a-half years ago when we arrived here,” Pochettino said.
“He didn’t play too much in his first season, he always had problems, or physical problems. I must give all credit to these guys, the sports science and all the medical staff, to create now a Mousa Dembele that is strong and can play.
“I always say ‘Mousa, in my book you will be one of my genius players that I have been lucky to meet’. One was Maradona, the others Ronaldinho, [Jay-Jay] Okocha and [Ivan] De la Pena – he was a genius too – and Mousa Dembele.
“We always told him that if we had taken him at 18 or 19 years old, he would have become one of the best players in the world. I would have loved to have taken him on at 18.”
Tottenham are second in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of leaders Chelsea, ahead of Saturday’s trip to Burnley.