Wayne Rooney has waded into football’s greatest debate by picking Lionel Messi as the game’s best player in a surprising snub to ex-Manchester United pal Cristiano Ronaldo.
Juventus superstar Ronaldo has battled it out with his Barcelona rival Messi as the sport’s premier stars for the best part of the last 15 years.
Incredibly only once in the last 12 years has the game’s most coveted prize – the Ballon d’Or – NOT gone to one of the Portuguese or the Argentine.
Rooney starred alongside Ronaldo during the first of his five Player of the Year awards at Old Trafford and the two formed a formidable partnership and remained close since.
Image: Wayne Rooney
Yet despite that, the former England captain opted for Messi when tasked with picking a winner because of the different things to the Barca icon’s play.
He wrote in the Times: “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.
“Cristiano has become an incredible scorer and he and Messi are arguably the best two players the game has seen. But despite my friendship with Cristiano, I’d go for Messi.
“He [Ronaldo] practised and practised and began to produce.
“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.”
Rooney’s verdict follows in another of United’s legends in snubbing Ronaldo for Messi after David Beckham gave his assessment of the two.
Pundits and fans have been hard-pushed to split them in the GOAT debate, even players who have played with both of the record-breaking pair have found it tough to do so.
However, supporters were denied the chance to see Messi and Ronaldo line-up together following the news that United initially preferred to sell their star asset to Madrid’s El Clasico rivals Barcelona in 2009.