Pele, who won the World Cup three times, believes Little Pea has all the ingredients to reach the very top of the game if he continues to develop at his current rate.
The Mexican hot-shot has scored 20 goals in a remarkable debut season at Old Trafford since his £7million switch from Chivas, helping his new team to within touching distance of a spectacular domestic and European ‘double’.
Top of the pile: Javier Hernandez has been tipped to become Lionel Messi’s equal
His performances have drawn praise from all over, with team-mate Ryan Giggs claiming hailing his impact on and off the pitch.
And Pele, too, has followed suit, backing the 22-year-old to at least share the headlines with Messi when the pair go head-to-head in the Champions League final at Wembley.
‘There is no doubt that Hernandez is a promising player,’ the Brazilian said. ‘He is excellent, I have seen some games of his on television and he is a fantastic footballer.
‘He could be the next Messi because he has great talent; he is a big surprise just as Hugo Sanchez was because he is another that scores a lot of goals.
‘We should wait a little, because we still don’t know how he will play in the Mexican team. But without doubt, he has huge potential.’
Hernandez shot to the world’s attention before the World Cup, when United surprised everyone in spending the reletively low price for one of the MLS’ brightest talents. And he went on to shine for Mexico in South Africa. The same, though, can’t be said for Messi who once again flattered to deceive for his country.
Calling on the age-old rivalry between his native Brazil and Argentina, Pele was quick to point out the Barcelona man’s failure to take club form to the international stage.
‘There is a big difference between Barcelona’s Messi and Argentina’s Messi,’ he continued. ‘When Messi plays in the Seleccion he is not the same player.’