Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone called red-hot striker Radamel Falcao one of the top three players on the planet and issued an ominous warning to future opponents that the Colombia ace is still improving.
In comments ahead of Thursday's visit of Academica in the Europea League -- a competition Falcao has won in the last two years with Porto and Atletico but has yet to be unleashed upon this season -- Simeone heaped praise on the 26-year-old, who he believes is in a similar class to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"Ronaldo and Messi have shown what they can do but he has nothing to be jealous of anybody else for," Simeone said.
Falcao's superb match-winning free-kick goal at Real Sociedad on Sunday took his season tally to 12 in all competitions, having last season netted 36 goals in his first campaign with Atletico.
Asked if he thought it was unfair Falcao was not being talked about as a candidate to win the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or award, Simeone said: "Absolutely. He was the leading scorer in the last two Europa Leagues, won them both, won the European Supercopa ... he is among the three best players in the world."
Falcao has scored in each of his last 10 games for club and country, netting 16 goals in total, but Simeone has suggested there is even more to come from the former River Plate striker in terms of effectiveness in front of net.
"I think that he's growing game by game with regards to deciding where best to be inside the area," he said. "Every day he is more competitive and more potent in a place where there are less and less strikers of this type."
In other Atletico news, the team paid its taxes in Spain Tuesday, giving the Spanish Internal Revenue Services 16 million euros ($20.7 million) to bring its total debt paid this year to 33 million euros ($42.8 million). The team is expected to repay 50 million euros this year as it looks to reduce its debt, Marca reported.
"The date to pay off all our debt is September 2014," Atletico's chief executive Miguel Angel Gil told Marca as he described the team's payment plan.
Gil Marin has called on the Spanish footballing authorities to make sweeping structural changes to prevent the duopoly of Barcelona and Real Madrid from becoming more dominant and preventing La Liga's smaller clubs from holding on to their top talent. Atletico's debt is estimated at $441 million.
The Madrid and Barcelona domination of La Liga stems from the unfair distribution of TV revenues in Spain which sees the smaller clubs receive significantly less, unlike an equal share deal between clubs seen in leagues such as the Premier League.
"The structure must be changed so that 18 clubs do not have to live on the leftovers," Gil Marin said last month. "I am sure that Madrid and Barcelona will again finish 30 points ahead of the third placed team. A competition where one team gets 100 points from 114 is ill."
Gil Marin, whose family controls Atletico along with club president Enrique Cerezo, despite years of fans protests and a legal judgement against them, said that a new form of club ownership was required to fix the deep problems within Spanish football.
Information from Press Association was used in this report.