Lionel Messi has revealed that his favourite player to watch is the former-Argentina playmaker Pablo Aimar, which opens up the question - who do the world's best players like to watch.

Andrea Pirlo's recent performances against England and Germany have led to a chorus of admiring tributes from the great and good of world football. And Pirlo is now pinpointed as Italy's main threat to Spain when Cesare Prandelli's men contest the Euro 2012 final, and the Juve star has even been mooted as a possible Ballon d'Or contender. When professionals are asked which fellow players do they respect, Pirlo's name inevitably ends up towards the top of the list.

Cristiano Ronaldo - until Portugal's semi-final elimination - was also enjoying an impressive tournament. And the Madrid star names his Brazilian namesake, Ronaldo, as his footballing hero.

Both are equally capable of a mazy dribbles, dizzying stopovers and lethal finishes, or at least the Brazilian Ronaldo was, and Cristiano reveals 'the Phenomenon' was an early inspiration.

When Ronaldo was first breaking into the Sporting team, at the tender age of 17 in 2002, his performances were as eye-catching as the Brazilian Ronaldo's simultaneous march to World Cup glory in South Korea and Japan.

The symmetry on the pitch, coupled with the similar name, led to obvious comparisons between the two.

But a player's hero isn't always a reflection of the player themselves. Steven Gerrard, Liverpool captain and England talisman, is the driving force of any team he plays for, a powerful presence in the centre of any midfield.

And the Scouse midfielder's favourite player of all-time is an equally influential playmaker, but one with a slightly more silky technique. Zinedine Zidane is Gerrard's inspiration, and although both are world-class players, their style is different, if not contrasting.

Zidane himself names Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes as one of his favourites to watch with the ball at his feet. When Scholes retired, Zidane was among the first to pay tribute to his ability, touch, vision and technique, as were other midfield masters like Xavi and Andres Iniesta. High praise indeed.

Xavi's often been asked his opinion and the Spanish star regularly points to the Premier League. Scholes is one of his heroes, but so were early Premier League superstars John Barnes and Matt Le Tissier.

But what of Scholes himself? The United midfielder is famously reluctant to give interviews, but he did once reveal his favourite player: Oldham Athletic's Frankie Bunn.

In one of those rare Paul Scholes interviews at the World Cup in 2002, while Ronaldo was busy winning the tournament and his namesake was making a name for himself in Lisbon, the United star gave his answer to a puzzled group of international journalists.

A die-hard Oldham fan, Scholes skipped over Van Basten, Zidane, Maradona and Pele and opted instead for Bunn, a former-Latics striker who once scored six goals in a League Cup tie.

Scholes' old teammate at Old Trafford, David Beckham, named former-England and United captain Bryan Robson as his footballing hero. Given Beckham's global celebrity, Robson seems an understated choice at first glance, but Robson's influence is evident in most facets of Beckham's game.

As England captain, the LA Galaxy player led by example, much like Robson, and wormed his way into the nation's hearts with a series of lung-busting performances and the odd tearful press conference.

As for the world's current best player, Lionel Messi apparently enjoys nothing more than settling down to watch Pablo Aimar deliver another midfield masterclass for Benfica. Messi's often compared to Maradona in terms of style, while his performances are scruntized relative to whatever Cristiano Ronaldo did the previous day.

But Messi cites Aimar as his favourite, and it's not hard to see why. The former-Valencia midfielder is and was a supremely gifted footballer. The same height as Messi - 5ft 7in - Aimar creates time and space to himself much like his Argentine contemporary.

The world's best players enjoy watching their fellow professionals as much as the fans, and although they are competitors on the pitch, there is often rich mutual respect between the world's top players off it.

Which players do you love watching? Leave your favourite in the comment box below...

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