Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino considers Mousa Dembele to be among an elite group of “genius players” he was worked with that includes Argentine legend Diego Maradona.
The Spurs boss spent a brief period alongside an iconic countryman at Newell’s Old Boys in the early 1990s.
He also played with former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho at Paris Saint-Germain and various other creative influences over the course of a distinguished career.
Pochettino is prepared to place Belgium international midfielder Dembele in such illustrious company, with the 29-year-old having emerged as a key figure at White Hart Lane.
He said: “I always tell him: ‘Mousa, when I write my book, you will be one of my genius players, who I have been lucky to meet.
“One was Maradona. The others were Ronaldinho, Okocha and De La Pena.
“We have always told Mousa that if we had taken him at 18 or 19, he would have become one of the best players in the world. I would love to have taken him on at 18.
“He is completely different now to when we arrived at Tottenham two-and-a-half years ago.
"He didn’t play too much in his first season (Dembele made only 10 league starts in the 2014-15 campaign) as he always had physical problems.
“I must give all the credit to my staff and the sports science team, all the medical staff, because they have created a new Mousa Dembele who is strong and can play regularly.
"If you are honest, you would agree with me.
“We provide individual training plans to every player and Mousa started to work very hard. We are very happy with him.”
Dembele has made 28 appearances for Spurs in all competitions this season, helping to keep them in contention for a top-four finish in the Premier League and a return to the Champions League for 2017-18.