Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand has picked his five toughest opponents – and for once Lionel Messi isn’t number one.
Instead, the centre back opts for former Real Madrid and Spain captain Raul, with his movement and passing ability two of the key factors behind the 34-year-old’s decision.
“Raul. He was just difficult to pin down. He played in positions where it was hard for a centre back to go and mark him,” he told a video for #5 magazine.
“Then, once he got it and turned, he’d run at you, pass it, slip people through on goal and set-up chances.”
Messi does find himself second on the list, with Ferdinand admitting the Argentine playmaker has made the difference in the big games when he’s come up against him.
“Messi, I’ve played against him a few times now, and he’s been the main player who has really hurt us in the two games, especially the Champions League finals - he was the difference really. A great player, and one of the best of all-time as well,” added Ferdinand.
Two Brazilian players come next, with the England international recalling his battles against both Ronaldo and Rivaldo on the World Cup stage.
They are followed by a surprise addition, with Lazio striker and former teammate Louis Saha getting the nod in fifth ahead of some big names.
“Saha in training was unbelievable. I’ve played against him a few times in matches, but in training, during the small-sided games, you didn’t even know he was kicking you when he was kicking you. His all-round ability, athleticism and touch with both feet was brilliant,” Ferdinand concluded.
The surprise omission is, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. Ferdinand has faced the Real Madrid winger in international competition, coming up on the losing side after a penalty shootout against Portugal at the 2006 World Cup.