Football icon Diego Maradona says there is nothing to choose from between Real Madrid and Barcelona rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The stellar pair’s ongoing rivalry has dominated the footballing landscape this decade, perhaps taking the baton from Maradona’s own dispute with Brazilian great Pele over which of them is the sport’s greatest player.
Having emerged from the cursed shadow of a ‘next Maradona’ to establish his own legend, Messi has won eight Liga titles and four Champions Leagues in a glittering 12 years as a senior Barcelona player.
Ronaldo, a four-time league champion in England and Spain as well as three-time Champions League winner, seized a crucial advantage over Messi in the race to be this era’s greatest this year as he captained Portugal to Euro 2016 glory.
Messi has lost all four of his major finals with Argentina and reversed a retirement after going down to Chile in this year’s Copa America finale, but Maradona maintains the Barca star remains at Ronaldo’s side.
“These two are superior to the rest. Messi isn’t better than Cristiano Ronaldo and vice versa,” Maradona told Marca.
“Ronaldo always shows great passion and, honestly, it bores me to repeat that Messi doesn’t have to win a World Cup to be a phenomenon. Enough of that!
If you don’t have personality, and don’t sing the national anthem, then you should be left alone.
“The kid had every right to retire from the national side in the summer, and then he returns and still gets criticised!”
International success makes Ronaldo favourite for this year’s Ballon d’Or, a fourth win would take him one behind Messi’s record tally of five.
However, Maradona said of the award: “For me, the Ballon d’Or is not accurate.
“For example in 2014 Manuel Neuer was a finalist with Messi and Ronaldo. The German should have won, he’d just lifted the World Cup!”
Messi’s club-mate Neymar has emerged as a potential pretender to the Argentine and Ronaldo’s throne and Maradona admitted he revels in watching the Brazilian play.
“Ronaldo and Messi are no longer in a two-horse race, there are three running to win,” he said.
“I knew that Brazil wasn’t going to stand by after Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, and Kaka, then Neymar emerged and entertains everyone.
“I love watching him play, you can kick him 200 times and he’ll still run at the defence again and again.”