Pep Guardiola thinks Kevin De Bruyne will have to help Manchester City win trophies before he can be regarded as one of the greats like Lionel Messi.
But the City manager feels such comparisons with the Barcelona star could put too much pressure on his Belgian forward.
De Bruyne has been in outstanding form for the Premier League leaders in the early part of the season and he delivered a passing masterclass in Saturday’s 7-2 rout of Stoke, helping set up four goals.
That came after another commanding performance, and match-winning goal, against champions Chelsea prior to the recent international break.
Asked if De Bruyne, 26, could currently be regarded as the best player in Europe, Guardiola said: “The best is just one (player). If he wants to be considered one of the best, you have to win titles and we are here to help him to achieve that.
“The best is just one, but he is of course one of the best.”
Guardiola, who was speaking at a press conference to preview Tuesday’s Champions League Group F clash with Napoli, was obviously referring to Messi when he spoke about the best.
The former Barca boss regularly expresses his admiration for the Argentinian five-time world player of the year, with whom he won two Champions League trophies and three LaLiga titles.
Asked if De Bruyne could ever reach Messi’s level, Guardiola said: “It would be a dream for me.
“I would love, not only for Kevin, but all the players I have had in the past to achieve the level of Messi. It would be a massive thing for my teams because we would win a lot of games.
“But I don’t want to put pressure on Kevin’s shoulders. Kevin is an outstanding, amazing player. He is a humble guy and all his team-mates love him.
“He wants to play every single game, he fights until the end but I don’t help him by comparing him with Messi.
“Messi is apart. He is a guy who has scored 60 goals every season for eight or nine years.”
Another of City’s star men, Sergio Aguero, could return against Napoli. The striker has made a rapid recovery from the broken rib he sustained in a car crash three weeks ago and he was an unused substitute against Stoke.
“Day by day he is much better,” Guardiola said. “Yesterday he had an amazing training session.”
Napoli’s form is almost as impressive as City’s. They top Serie A with a 100 per cent record after eight games, having scored 26 goals in the process.
Guardiola said: “I am sure it will be a fascinating game and I hope Manchester City fans can come again to help us. We need their support. I am pretty sure it will be a massive game.”