The Barcelona icon and Juventus superstar have been the dominant footballers in the game for the past decade.
Rio Ferdinand believes the endless debate over who should be hailed as the greatest between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo needs to end, insisting the duo should simply be given their own place in the pantheon of the game’s all-time greats.
Ferdinand, who played alongside a young Ronaldo as he cut his football teeth under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, has not been surprised by the incredible achievements of the Juventus superstar, who is the leading scorer in the history of the Champions League.
He is also full of admiration for Barcelona maestro Messi and suggests the pair have long since secured their place in the list of the game’s enduring icons.
“We are blessed that we are in the presence of these two amazing footballers and it doesn’t matter if you think one is better than the other at this stage,” Ferdinand told Goal, at an event to promote his new movie 90 Minutes.
“They are both just ridiculous talents and what puts them so far ahead of everyone else is their mental strength. That area of their game never ceases to amaze me and separates them from everyone else. It is something I marvel at, definitely.
“To consistently want to do what they have done at that level for so long is not something many people have and, when you throw in their talent, it’s an incredible combination.
“The joy for us as viewers is watching this incredible battle between two great players who are clearly being driven on by the fact they are playing in the same era of the game.
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“If Ronaldo scores a hat-trick one night in the Champions League, you just know Messi will follow up the next night with a hat-trick of his own or some kind of crazy goal that only he can score. It’s a great TV and we should relish it. I think these two have definitely been driven on by each other and we have seen examples of how this works in other sports as well.
“Rodger Federer and Rafael Nadal are examples of two incredible sporting talents that have had to go to the next level and the next level because they are pushing each other on. It was the same when (John) McEnroe and (Bjorn) Borg were at the top of tennis. They have always had someone to compete with. Muhammad Ali with Joe Frazer and George Foreman pushing him is another example.
“What Ronaldo and Messi are doing is just amazing, but I’m not surprised to see Cristiano at this level. From the moment we saw him at United, all of us in the dressing room said he was going to be the best player in the world and that is what he became.
“What’s amazing with these two is they have not just been the best player in the world for one or two years, which was the norm up to this point. They have been the best players in the world for 10 and 12 years, which is ridiculous.”