Chris Wood says his Newcastle team-mate Allan Saint-Maximin has the potential to be one of the best players in the world, and even challenge for the Ballon d’Or in the coming years.
It has been a frustrating start to the season for the Frenchman, with injury keeping him sidelined for much of the current campaign.
However, Saint-Maximin has gradually returned to action in recent weeks, coming off the bench to assist Bruno Guimaraes’ goal in their 4-1 demolition of Southampton in the Premier League.
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Wood was also on the scoresheet at St Mary’s, netting his first league goal of the season after struggling for game time in recent months.
Newcastle are creating a season to remember at St James’ Park, with just one top-flight defeat so far leaving them as the closest challengers to Arsenal and Manchester City at the top of the table.
Speaking to Eurosport about his team-mates, Wood said: “Well, we've got a lot of good players here. Allan is definitely one of them.
"He shows a lot of talent on the pitch and on the training pitch. He has the potential to go as high as he wants to go."
Quizzed about whether Saint-Maximin could, in fact, compete with the game’s best players for the highly-coveted Ballon d’Or trophy, Wood added: “It will be the mental side of the application because he's got all the talent in the world and he's just got to bring that all together.
"I think he's got it. But it's all down to him now. So yeah, in the future, he could be up there as one of the best in the world playing, and hopefully the French national team soon.
“It's down to him to put his mind to it and achieve it, and I know he's got the drive that he wants to do that. It's just that the hardest thing is always doing it."
Despite playing for France from under-16 to under-21 level, Saint-Maximin is yet to make a senior international appearance for his country.
Competing with attacking stars such as Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, Saint-Maximin knows he faces a huge battle to break into the squad. Wood thinks the former Nice player will relish the challenge.
"Stepping into that French side is completely tough," he said. "One of the best sides in the world at the moment. So yeah, it's going to be a big tough thing for him to do but what an achievement it would be if he can.”
Newcastle’s blistering start to the season will only further heighten expectations on Tyneside with the club enjoying the transition period following their Saudi-backed takeover last year.
With confidence high and money freely available to spend, Wood knows a lot of people will be keeping an interested eye on their performances in the second half of the season, following the World Cup.
“Everybody's going to say different things," he said. "I think us as players, it's about finishing better than we did last season and continuing to progress. It's very hard to jump from a mid-table team to a top four team.
"It's going to take years to build the infrastructure and the foundation of the squad to achieve the dreams ahead. So progression every year is the best-case scenario and the quicker we can progress, it will be fantastic. But you’ve got to progress every season.
Asked when that progression will lead to silverware, Wood said: “It's one of the hardest questions in the world.
“It probably took Man City four or five years to even be anywhere near challenging for the top four and the top two in the Premier League. It might take that long. You never know.
"I think it all depends on how the infrastructure and the owner and their CEO apply themselves and choose carefully."
Looking towards a bright future for the club, Wood said: “It's a fantastic project to be a part of and I believe they will be challenging for Premier League glory and Champions League glory in time. Putting a year and number on that - nobody can really guess.”
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