ENGLAND legend Tom Finney today said Damien Duff has the potential to become one of the game's all-time greats.

Finney, who is widely regarded as the finest winger of all-time, has singled out Duff as one of the players who excites him most in the modern era.

And the former Preston North End star believes people could even be talking about the Rovers winger in the same glowing terms as they do about him in years to come, providing he continues to progress at his current rate.

"When you start talking about the best players in the world that's a big, big field containing an awful lot of players you never really see in places like Brazil," said Finney.

"But Damien Duff is one of the most promising of the younger element and he has the potential to become one of the all-time greats.

"He's already shown that ability with Ireland and when you play in a World Cup you can't do it on any bigger stage than that."

Finney's achievements for both North End and England are legendary.

Described by many observers as simply the best footballer Britain has ever produced, he made a total of 473 appearances for Preston, scoring 210 goals -- a phenomenal return for man who played most of his career on the wing.

And he was equally prolific for England, too, for whom he scored 30 times in 76 games.

That kind of form saw him become the first man ever to be voted footballer of the year twice, in 1954 and 1957.

So when someone of that calibre describes you as one of the most exciting talents in the modern day people sit up and take notice.

"I've only seen Damien on television when Rovers have been on but I've also spoken to people like Ronnie Clayton and Bryan Douglas and they all rave about him," said the 81-year-old.

"Being a winger, he's prepared to take people on, he's also quick and very skilful.

"In today's game you don't see a lot of dribblers but he's one of them.

"I'd put him alongside the likes of Ryan Giggs in terms of the fact he's very exciting to watch and he's the type of player who gets you off your seat.

"Players like that are a dying breed. I would even go as far as to say very few of them are wingers as we know it and not a lot of them are anywhere near as skilful as Duff is.

"The key is being able to run at someone with pace.

"I've lost count of the amount of times I've watched games and screamed at players for not taking their man on but for players like the great Stan Matthews it was second nature, and Damien is the same."

Inevitably, Duff's form for Blackburn during the last 12 months has led to speculation linking him with a big money move elsewhere.

Manchester United and Liverpool are both reported to be ready to break the bank to lure him away from Rovers this summer.

And Finney admits Graeme Souness faces a battle to keep hold of his star-man because the days of players staying loyal to one particular club are now a thing of the past.

"It's very rare that players stay at one club now," said the North End legend, who spent 14 seasons at Deepdale.

"In my day there was a maximum wage and that's the big difference between then and now.

"If Manchester United wanted you, you could only earn the same with them as you could somewhere else, so there was no real financial advantage in moving on.

"We only got £12 a week in 1946 which was the top money you could earn anywhere in those days.

"These days, however, the sky is the limit.

"People like David Beckham can earn £90,000 in a week which is mind-boggling.

"So when you get a club like Manchester United after you, it's very difficult for a young player to resist them.

"It's a big temptation because at a club like that Damien would probably double his weekly pay packet, so it would be interesting to see what his reaction was.

"But he's probably already made for life anyway."

Nevertheless, Finney - whose autobiography is currently riding high in the Sunday Times Best Sellers list - believes Rovers must do everything in their power to keep hold of their inspirational Irishman.

Finney himself spent his entire career at Preston, leading the club to runners-up spot in the First Division on two separate occasions during that 14-year spell.

Then the season after he retired in 1960, the club got relegated from the top flight and they haven't returned since -- underlining the importance of hanging onto your key players.

"If I was Graeme Souness I'd be fighting tooth and nail to keep Damien," said Finney.

"But a lot depends on the individual himself, of course.

"If he was thinking of going then he'd probably want to join a club who'd have a chance of success like United.

"But if he's happy at Blackburn Rovers and content and enjoying his football there, then that's all that really matters."