Brazilian icon Pele has waded into the Ballon d’Or debate once more and claims Cristiano Ronaldo deserved to scoop the prestigious prize ahead of Lionel Messi.
Messi won his 4th straight Ballon d’Or earlier this year for his goalscoring exploits with Barcelona.
The Argentinian ace broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals scored in a calendar year while this season he broke another record by scoring in 17 straight Spanish league games, going on to score in 21 consecutive matches before failing to find the net on the last day out of the season.
While Messi garnered all the praise for his goal-scoring exploits it was Ronaldo who had the last laugh as he helped Real Madrid beat off Barca to win the 2011/12 La Liga title.
Since then Barcelona have wrestled back the league crown from their rivals, and with neither side being crowned champions of Europe, Pele believes Ronaldo should have won his 2nd Ballon d’Or for helping to break Barcelona’s dominance.
"In terms of football, I say Messi, but in terms of successes I think Ronaldo deserved to win the Ballon d'Or. He won La Liga with Real Madrid," Pele said in an interview with AS.
"I was at Fifa presenting the award on two occasions. Cristiano was close on both occasions, but Messi always had more."
Pele has been vocal in the past about his belief that countryman Neymar has what it takes to surpass Messi as the greatest player in the world.
Now it has been confirmed Neymar will line up alongside Messi at Barcelona next season, Pele concedes it will take some time for the former Santos player to reach that level.
"It’s clear that the marking in European football is different to Brazilian or South American clubs," he said. "They’re stronger, the marking is tighter and the referees are used to this type of play. I think that this will be Neymar’s main difficulty.
"He has some obstacles to get over: he needs to play in a World Cup, he needs to improve his heading. By way of comparison, we had [Zinedine] Zidane a short time ago, one of the last great names in world football. He was an extremely complete player. Neymar still needs to get to that level."