Manchester United's Marcus Rashford is capable of becoming a Ballon d'Or winner, according to Matteo Darmian, who sees the striker reaching the same level as Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe in the near future.
Rashford burst onto the scene at Old Trafford as a teenager back in 2016, scoring a stunning double on his debut against Midtjylland in the Europa League.
Fast forward four years, and he is now one of the most important members of United's squad, having added end product and maturity to his game under the guidance of head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The 22-year-old recorded a career-high tally of 19 goals in his first 31 appearances this season, but his progress was halted by a back injury which saw him sidelined in January.
Rashford is now working towards full fitness in the comfort of his own home, as he self-isolates away from the rest of the United squad amid the coronavirus-enforced break in the campaign.
Darmian - who played for United for four years before being sold to Parma last summer - says there is still plenty of time for the England forward to fulfil his potential, with it his belief that his old team-mate has all the attributes to reach the very highest level of the game.
“I still remember Marcus Rashford’s first session with the senior squad like it was yesterday," the Italian full-back told The Guardian.
"I immediately thought: ‘Wow, this is an incredible player’. He did so many impressive things for a player of his age and the way he improved in every detail really impressed me.
“If he continues to work the way he has done so far he can be a Ballon d’Or winner. I’m convinced of this. He impressed me the most of all the players at United and he’s very young and can still improve.
"For me, he can reach the level of Kylian Mbappe and compete for the Ballon d’Or for years to come.”
Darmian was one of several players Solskjaer decided to let go last year as he set about stamping his own mark on the United squad, with a view to bringing a frustrating transitional period to an end and restoring the glory days of the Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Positive signs of improvement have been shown in 2019-20, and Darmian is certain that the Norwegian is the right man to take the club forward, despite having been deemed surplus to requirements.
“I can only speak well about Solskjaer, believe me,” he added. “I would give him a long-term contract.
"He’s a very prepared coach and Manchester United has started this project, this journey, with many young players, many British players and they will continue with this project.
"Because of the person I got to know, I hope Solskjaer has success at the club."