Fabio Capello has revealed he once asked Frank Rijkaard during a match if he could take Lionel Messi on loan from Barcelona to Juventus.
Messi, 27, is two goals short of breaking Telmo Zarra's all-time La Liga record of 251 strikes, and is among the 23 nominees for the 2014 Ballon d'Or having won the award four times already.
Russia coach Capello says he tried to persuade former Camp Nou coach Rijkaard during a Gamper Trophy match in 2005 -- in which Messi impressed with an assist -- to let him take the youngster to Serie A on a temporary deal, but was rebuffed.
"It's completely true that I asked Rijkaard if he would loan me Messi for Juventus," AS.com reports him as saying on Spanish radio on Wednesday night.
"When the play had stopped for a minute I went over to Rijkaard and said: 'You can't play him because you've got three foreigners already. Why don't you let me have him for a year?'
"Rijkaard replied: 'We're going to clear up the situation in three or four months and for that reason I can't do it.' That's why Messi's debut was last in coming. I knew the value of my full-backs and when I saw Messi play I knew he was special. I could see that he could do things that didn't occur to other players."
Messi's main rival for the Ballon d'Or is likely to be last year's winner Cristiano Ronaldo, though Capello says the Real Madrid forward lacks the Argentina captain's ability on the ball.
"Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are two extraordinary players but they are different," he said. "Cristiano is a powerful player, with very good technique, but he does not possess the pure technical skill of Messi. Leo Messi is a very difficult player to play against."
The former England coach also had his say on Messi playing alongside Neymar and summer signing Luis Suarez, with question marks over how the trio will fit into the same starting XI.
Suarez started on the wing in Barca's 3-1 clasico defeat to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last weekend, and Capello feels the Blaugrana lacked "balance" as the Uruguay international's ability was wasted on the flank.
"The three could be compatible, but it depends on where you play Messi," he continued. "He needs to play closer to the goal to stay fresh. Luis Suarez is a player who is worth only 60 percent of his capability if he's on the wing.
"Suarez requires time because he's been out for four months and because he's a player who scores goals and can make the difference. If Luis Enrique finds the right formula, it's a front line that can score a lot of goals.
"In the clasico, [Javier] Mascherano prevented Madrid from scoring five; he prevented two or three goals. In the first half Barca played well, but in the second Madrid was the better side. At this moment there is a difference between the teams because Madrid has more balance on the pitch. Barcelona lacks that.
"I see Barca maybe among the four semifinalists [for the Champions League] but their performance will rely on how Luis Enrique manages the three forwards."
Capello also believes that Messi is ahead of his Barca teammate Neymar in terms of professionalism, adding: "Neymar is a great player but I can't stand players who throw themselves to the floor every time they are touched. Pepe does the same thing.
"When they are winning and they get touched they go down. I don't like that. I like the spirit of games in England: running, fighting and not going down on the floor. As the English say: 'No diving.' Messi, on the other hand, despite all the kicks he gets, never dives. He is a player that I adore."