Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has hailed striker Robin van Persie as "world class" and believes he could be capable of winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or next season if he keeps up his current form.
Wenger watched his Dutch striker score the first and make two more in yesterday's 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion at the Emirates Stadium, which sent Arsenal to within three points of the Premier League top four.
Van Persie has scored eight goals in his last six league starts and Wenger believes his man belongs in the category of the world's finest five players. And although the Arsenal manager concedes this year Barcelona playmaker Lionel Messi has the world player of the year award in the bag, he believes his striker could be a contender next year.
"The only thing you know is 'world class'. When I was a kid, in Germany they had three rankings: national class, international class and world class," he said. "At world class there were always only four or five players in that category but I would put Van Persie into that calibre.
"There is some quality there. And, of course, certainly Messi will win the best player in the world award, deservedly so, because he won everything. But let's let Van Persie enjoy the full season and we can make an assessment about him. Let's not put too much pressure on him yet."
Arsenal have risen from a position just above the relegation zone following their 8-2 loss to Manchester United to one level on points with fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Their resurgence has largely been down to Van Persie's goals, but the fact he set up Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta for Arsenal's second and third pleased Wenger greatly.
"At the moment it is difficult to stop him. He wasn't only a goalscorer today, he was a provider as well, which is what I like from my strikers," he said.
"We have made some improvement, that is for sure, but there is still room. I always said let's come back in December, because we knew there were real tests in Chelsea and after that could we straight away win having won a big game. We are not at the same level we were one month ago, but we still have some work to do."