Man United: Sergio Ramos hailed as greater than Messi and Ronaldo

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos

Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo is the great footballing debate that will never have a definitive answer - unless you're Manchester United defender Eric Bailly. 

Of course, preferring Leo or CR7 is largely a matter of which school of thought you belong to, whether you find Messi's unrivalled natural talent simply irresistible or have a greater appreciation for the way Ronaldo has relentlessly sought to perfect every aspect of his craft. 

Bailly, though, has an incredibly different and unique take on the whole GOAT discussion.

Speaking to journalist Guillem Balague, he revealed his ultimate inspiration isn't either of the footballing flagships of modern times but rather Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. 

Bailly said: "My greatest inspiration has always been Ramos. I've admired him for a long time, because of what he does in football and how he keeps going at a high level. 

"For me, he's one of the best players in the history of football. Everyone has an opinion, but he is one of the best, the perfect reference point for me."

And the Ivory Coast international then went one step further by placing Ramos above the serial Ballon d'Or winners: "If you ask me Messi or Ronaldo, I’d say Ramos."

GIVEMESPORT's Christy Malyan says...

Defenders' Union and all that, but there's actually some very interesting aspects to what Bailly is saying. 

Perhaps the first is that football has developed a strange knack of overlooking the importance of defenders. Between 2001 and 2006, one third of the 18 entries for the top three of the Ballon d'Or were goalkeepers or defenders. 

In fact, in 2006, the trophy was won by a defender in Fabio Cannavaro, while goalkeeper and Italy team-mate Gianluigi Buffon came second. 

In the 13 Ballon d'Ors since then, just one defender (Virgil van Dijk in 2019) has made the top three, as well as one goalkeeper (Manuel Neuer in 2014). 

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Champions League trophy

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It seems that somewhere over the past 15 years, those not playing in advanced roles have been completely forgotten about.

The other intriguing element to Bailly's claim is recognising that Ramos is actually a pretty special case and even if we are judging defenders collectively as less valuable than attacking players, he probably should be an exception to that rule. 

After all, he's won four Champions League titles, captaining Real Madrid for three of them, and tasted World Cup and Euro glory with Spain, all while employing a brand of defending that combines old-school dark arts with aggressive high-pressing and a passing ability more befitting of a midfielder. 

That's without even mentioning the fact he's scored 100 goals for Real Madrid, twice netting in Champions League finals, and even takes penalties for Los Blancos. 

Ramos is an incredibly unique footballer and Bailly's quotes highlight the fact there should be a much more rounded view, taking those kinds of player into account, when we're debating the crown of best in the world.

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