Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has backed striker Wayne Rooney to establish himself among the best players in the world.
The Scot believes 23-year-old Rooney's current impressive form could be the start of a challenge to players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
"Wayne could easily get to that level," said Ferguson ahead of Wednesday's Champions League tie against Wolfsburg.
"He is blessed with some ingredients only great footballers have."
Barcelona's Messi, who scored against United in last season's Uefa Champions League final, is expected to succeed former Old Trafford winger Ronaldo - now at Real Madrid - as this year's Fifa World Player of the Year.
However, Ferguson believes Rooney, who failed to get any votes in last year's Fifa poll of national team captains and coaches, has the qualities to join them at the very pinnacle of the game.
"When we signed him as a kid, we thought he would become a really top player," he stated.
"He has a great determination and hunger to win every match and every training session. That will never change.
"He plays as if he means it. It is a wonderful thing to have."
Rooney arrived at United after four goals and a string of impressive performances in Euro 2004 persuaded Ferguson to offer Everton £27m for the then 18-year-old.
Rooney has scored 71 league goals for Manchester United
Despite winning three Premier League titles and a European Cup with United, a 10th-placed finish in Fifa's World Player of the Year poll from five years ago remains the best such placing of his career.
After achieving a hat-trick in a 6-2 win over Fenerbahce on his United debut, Rooney's scoring rate slowed as he was increasingly deployed out wide.
But Ronaldo's departure from United in July has enabled Rooney to play more centrally this season and he has responded with seven goals in nine games for his club.
Rooney topped a fans' poll to be voted the England team's player of the year for 2008 and has so far scored seven goals for United this season.
United team-mate Jonny Evans believes Rooney's new role has fuelled his prolific start.
"His form has been great this season. He is playing through the middle now and is probably in his most favourite position," he said.
United face Wolfsburg in Group B on the back of a 1-0 victory over Besiktas on 15 September.
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