Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata believes Lionel Messi can rightly be considered the greatest player ever and is therefore hopeful he does not join rivals Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola's City were widely considered the favourites to sign Messi earlier this year when the superstar forward handed in a transfer request at Barcelona.
The Argentina international remained in place at Camp Nou but is out of contract in June and has again been linked with City, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.
And Mata is worried about the prospect of Messi, who has seven goals in 13 appearances in all competitions this season, ending up at United's cross-city rivals next year.
"I hope not! I hope not for the betterment of my club," Mata, speaking in his role as an Laureus ambassador, is quoted as saying by The Mirror.
"One of the things that I realised in professional football is that you should focus on what you can control and forget about what you cannot."
Messi has endured a difficult spell since failing in his attempt to force a move away from Barcelona in the close season.
However, Mata remains a huge admirer of the 33-year-old, who has won a record six Ballons d'Or during his trophy-laden career.
"I have a soft spot - which is very easy to have - for Messi," he said. "He is a guy that every time I see him play football he makes my life better.
"I'd give him the trophy for the best player every year. I will give him the trophy for the best player ever because what he's done in his career and what he still does is unbelievable.
"I always make fun with my friends, because whenever somebody has a bad day, they put a video of Messi on YouTube and then the day improves."
Messi fired another blank for Barcelona in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Cadiz, making it Barca's worst start after 10 games of a LaLiga campaign in 32 years.