Gerard Pique puts Didier Drogba alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

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Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has named Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as one of the best three players he has encountered during his career, along with Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and his current teammate Lionel Messi.

The 28-year-old, who has enjoyed a long-overdue return to top form this season, admits Drogba is one of the toughest players he has ever competed against.

The Ivory Coast international, who announced today that he will not retire at the end of the current campaign, is unquestionably one of the best strikers of the Premier League era as well as a bonafide Chelsea legend.

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Pique puts Drogba alongside Messi and Ronaldo

But it's not only Chelsea supporters who appreciate just how good Drogba was at his peak; despite having played with and against many of the world's best players, Pique feels the African icon was equally as tough to play against - but presumably for different reasons - as Ronaldo and Messi.

Speaking to Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo - and brought to our attention by Goal - the Spain international revealed: "There have been many but I would highlight, Drogba, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi every day in training!"

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Pique never played alongside Drogba but is a former teammate of Ronaldo. The pair of them briefly played together at Manchester United and a mutual respect has existed between the two players, despite the intense rivalry between their clubs, ever since.

That Pique named Messi, one of his closest friends in football and a four-time Ballon d'Or winner, as another of the best players he has encountered will surprise nobody.

Pique set to make 300th Barcelona appearance

The World Cup winner moved back to the Camp Nou in 2008 after four years with the Red Devils and is now poised to make his 300th appearance for the Catalan giants - a feat he admits is a childhood dream come true - against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-finals on Wednesday night.

"I grew up at La Masia, dreaming of playing for the first team one day so you can only imagine what it means to wear this shirt 300 times," Pique added. "Many people have been fortunate to enjoy it. And all the titles we won are very special.

"Both Barca and I have had the honour of reaching the final stages of major competitions, meeting the best teams and best players."

Pique on course to increase medal collection

Since returning to Barcelona, Pique has won a total of 16 trophies, most of which came during 2008 and 2012 - that remarkable mini-era with Pep Guardiola at the helm.

Since Guardiola's departure three years ago, Pique has sometimes flattered to deceive in central defence, the loss of regular centre-back partner Carles Puyol also affecting his performances.

But this season, under the management of Luis Enrique, the Spaniard is now back to his brilliant best and will be hoping to add to his - and Barcelona's - trophy collection before the end of the campaign.

Does Didier Drogba deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi? Have your say in the comments below!

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La Liga
Lionel Messi
Premier League
Cristiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid
Gerard Pique
Didier Drogba

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