Thiago: Barca trio all special
Barcelona youngster Thiago Alcantara says it is difficult to know which of his team-mates is the best, with two - Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta – named on Thursday's three-man shortlist for this year's Ballon d'Or prize.
Messi is going for a fourth consecutive Ballon d'Or, while Iniesta, although shortlisted in 2009 and 2010 has yet to win the award. Thiago said that Xavi Hernandez could also have been included in the list, and the three were all very close in quality.
"Leo is the best player in the world, that is very clear," Thiago said. "But he shares a dressing-room with other very good players. One scores the goals and others give the final pass. Each one complements the other. I do not see a big distance between Andres, Leo and Xavi."
Thiago, 21, who has already achieved a lot in his short career, did not rule out seeing himself on the Ballon d'Or podium someday.
"Since I was small I have dreamed about it, it has always been there," he said. "You take a plate and lift it as if it were the Ballon d'Or. But at the moment it is something very far away, you must concentrate on the day to day. At the moment there are people way ahead of me."
The midfielder, who returned after two months out with a thigh injury as a late sub against Levante last weekend and then played all 90 minutes in Barca's 3-1 Copa del Rey win over Alaves on Wednesday night, said the mood within the camp was good after a record-breaking start to the new season and eleven point lead over Real Madrid in the table.
"We are in good shape," he said. "We did not expect all this to happen. We want to finish the year with the same confidence as we have now."
Atletico Madrid's strong start - which sees them just three points off Barca after 13 games - has seen them also talked about as title contenders. Thiago said he was not worried who won Saturday's derby at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, once his team continued to rack up the points.
"Any result between Real Madrid and Atletico can benefit us as long as we win our own match," he said. "The distance to Madrid is unreal, it does not completely reflect La Liga. It could be more at the end of the season, or less, we do not know."
Barca's players were more focused on ensuring they picked up another win in their game at home to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, Thiago said.
"They have gone down compared to last year," he added. "The departure of Javi Martinez has affected them a bit. But they have quality players and at any moment they can go up again."