Michael Duff feels that ex-Claret Jay Rodriguez can be the boy from Burnley in Brazil next summer.
Defender Duff admits he is not looking forward to facing England starlet Rodriguez when the former team mates face each other for the first time at St Mary’s in Saturday’s FA Cup third round tie.
Duff insists he still bears the mental scars of being “smashed” by Jay-Rod in training when the rookie striker was fast-tracked into the Clarets first team squad as a teenager some seven years ago.
And he believes that following his move to the Premier League - and subsequent international recognition - Burnley-born Jay Rod now has the world at his feet.
Duff said: “It will be good to se Jay and I am sure he will be up for the game and want to play.
“He has done fantastically well since going there and it was a good deal for him and the club (Burnley) when he left.
“He has gone on and kicked on and the England cap just tops off what he has achieved so far.
“But I think he can go on again and, with all due respect to Southampton, I don’t think he has finished at that level.
“I think he can go higher and higher and if his progression curve keeps going the way it is he has every chance, including making the World Cup squad!”
Duff, who insists he always believes Rodriguez had star qualities, added: “If you look at pictures of Jay when he was first with us, you can see how his physical frame has changed.
“I remember when he first came training with the first team, the first thing he used to do was bury people.
“That’s a nightmare when the young lads come up and start smashing the older players, but it showed he had that hunger and desire, not to mention natural ability.
“The biggest compliment I can pay Jay is that his strongest asset is his head, with regards to what’s inside.
“His mentality is brilliant and hasn’t changed.
“He’s the local boy done good and I am sure the locals will tell you he has gone to Southampton and is earning god-knows-what, but hasn’t changed.
“The fact he keeps making these steps in his career and taking them in his stride is fantastic!”
Duff insists the surprise package of the Championship travel to the Premier league side intent on causing an FA Cup upset.
Seven points in the last four league games – and second spot in the league – means the Clarets start the New Year in high spirits.
Duff insisted: “I think we have taken a healthy points tally in the last four games and Saturday is a free hit for us.
New Year's Day victory over Huddersfield
“We get a 10-day break from the league and this is an opportunity to go and test ourselves against a Premier League team who are doing very well.
“In the last few months they have had three England internationals, which tells you how well they have been doing, but we go there with nothing to lose.
“We have had teams coming to Turf Moor in the past few weeks with that mentality and they have been hard to beat, so hopefully we can go there and give a good account of ourselves.”
Duff also insists the Clarets have the determination to compete on two fronts this season, despite outsiders casting doubts due to the size of Sean Dyche’s squad.
He added: “People keep telling us we have small squad, but we are doing alright so far!
“You can make too much of having big squads because sometimes there’s the problem of having too many.
“The players know what it is; it’s another game of football and we will go there looking to win the game.
“We know that won’t be easy against some very good players and in front of a big crowd, but I think we will do alright.”