Wayne Rooney believes that Lionel Messi is the greatest player in the world, ahead of former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo – and his comments come after it was revealed that David Beckham also sides with the Barcelona icon in the debate.
Current Derby player-coach Rooney has set aside his personal friendship with Juventus talisman Ronaldo and reasoned that Messi is the better player due to his ability to ‘torture’ his opponents.
Rooney featured alongside Ronaldo at Old Trafford and lifted a hat-trick of Premier League titles before the latter departed for Real Madrid in 2009.
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The long-standing rivalry between Messi and Ronaldo has seen the superstar pairing competing every season to clinch the Ballon d’or, with the 32-year-old Argentine currently holding an advantage with a record six accolades.
But Rooney has revealed that Messi holds the edge over Ronaldo, and stated that both players may be the greatest talents the sport has ever seen.
He said: ‘Ronaldo wasn’t as focused on goals when we started playing together but you could see that all he wanted was to be the best player in the world.
‘He practised and practised and began to produce. Cristiano has become an incredible scorer and he and Messi are arguably the best two players the game has seen.
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‘But despite my friendship with Cristiano, I’d go for Messi. It’s for the same reason I loved watching Xavi and Scholes: it’s the different things in Messi’s game. I’ve talked about composure and I can’t remember seeing Messi score when he has hit the ball as hard as he could. He just rolls them in, makes it so easy.
‘Ronaldo is ruthless in the box, a killer. But Messi will torture you before he kills you. With Messi, you just get the impression he is having more fun. Those two have completely changed the game in terms of goalscoring numbers and I don’t think they’ll ever be matched.’
Fellow United legend Beckham had also weighed in on the debate and shares the same opinion as Rooney.
Beckham insisted it is ‘impossible’ that any player comes close to matching Messi’s talent, but views both players as being in their own level above the rest of the sport.
‘He [Messi] is alone in his class as a player, it is impossible that there is another like him,’ Beckham told Argentine publication Telam.
‘He, like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is not at his level, are both above the rest.’