Barcelona's Lionel Messi voted the greatest player of the 21st century

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Lionel Messi has been the voted as the greatest player of the 21st century.

The Barcelona superstar entered the new decade with a record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or trophy and is widely accepted as one of the greatest athletes since the turn of the millennium.

Besides, removing the likes of Pele, Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona from the equation would lead many of us to view Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the lone contenders in football.

We appreciate that opens up a whole can of worms in itself with the Messi vs Ronaldo debate having caused back and forth arguments on social media for the best part of 15 years.

But with the debate's brake pedal firmly at the floor with both La Liga and Serie A suspended, Goal took lockdown as an opportunity to see who football fans really thought was the post-2000 GOAT.

Battle of the legends

With the hashtag #GoalIcons, they compiled a series of polls in a tournament format that allowed fans to vote on head-to-head match-ups between 16 players until they reached a grand final.

As you can imagine, it eventually culminated in a Messi vs Ronaldo final, but not before the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho and Andres Iniesta fell by the wayside.

We were a little confused to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto'o not reaching the quarter-finals despite winning their round of 16 votes, but you can check out the clear-cut results from the last eight onwards down below:

Quarter-finals

Cristiano Ronaldo - 71%

Andres Iniesta - 29%

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Ronaldinho - 50%* (marginally more votes)

Wayne Rooney - 50%

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Lionel Messi - 87%

Neymar - 13%

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Ronaldo Nazario - 80%

Carles Puyol - 20%

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Semi-finals

Lionel Messi - 70%

Ronaldo Nazario - 30%

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Cristiano Ronaldo - 55%

Ronaldinho - 45%

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Final

Lionel Messi - 56%

Cristiano Ronaldo - 44%

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Messi comes out on top

So, Messi claims the crown by a comfortable enough distance.

It was fascinating to note that Zidane didn't even make the quarter-finals despite the fact most people would agree that Rooney, Neymar and Puyol are inferior despite their own achievements.

Nevertheless, Rooney seemed to be something of a dark horse in the tournament and came within a hair's length of reaching a semi-final battle with his former Manchester United strike partner.

But in the end it was the Brazilian pair of Ronaldinho and Ronaldo Nazario who were left to try and wrestle apart the duopoly with the former coming closest with a strong 45% of the semi-final vote. 

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However, there was no splitting hairs with the votes in the final with Messi collecting the accolade of the millennium's greatest player, as far as Goal readers are concerned anyway.

But, for your money, we think the supporters have got it absolutely spot on.

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