Hernandez: Vidal is on the level of Ronaldo and Messi

Former Colombia playmaker Giovanni Hernandez has recalled Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal as youngsters, and championed the latter as being on a par with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Hernandez was part of a successful Colo-Colo side alongside Sanchez and Vidal before the former joined Udinese and the latter went to Bayer Leverkusen.

"Vidal is on the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi,” the 40-year-old told Radio ADN in the run-up to his country’s clash with Chile in 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying. “As a kid, he knew the potential he had and knew how to exploit it. He’s one of the best players in the world.”

A muscle injury has ruled Sanchez out of Thursday’s contest in Barranquilla.

“He was a playful kid – humorous, happy, humble,” said Hernandez. “That’s what I remember about Alexis. Today, he’s more of a man. He always worked a little harder than the rest, and that’s why he’s achieved everything he has.”

Colombia and Chile are fourth and fifth in the South American qualifying standings, separated by one point. Los Cafeteros and La Roja have appeared at five and nine World Cups, respectively.

Hernandez dazzled at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2003, with his three-goal return bettered only by France’s Thierry Henry. The free-kick specialist won 46 caps for Colombia.

Vidal has scored 20 goals in 84 internationals. The 29-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder recently became the first player in history to score five consecutive goals for Chile in World Cup qualifying.

Sanchez has netted 34 times in 101 caps – just three shy of La Roja’s all-time leading marksman, Marcelo Salas. The 27-year-old Arsenal attacker was recently named as one of the 23 candidates for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award.