For much of the last two decades, Cristiano Ronaldo has been considered one of the greatest players in world football.
Across that period, Ronaldo has represented some of Europe's greatest ever clubs. The 36-year-old first rose to international prominence at Manchester United, before spending nine seasons at Real Madrid and later moving to Juventus.
The Portuguese superstar traded Turin for a return to Old Trafford last month - and is set to make his second debut for the Red Devils this weekend as United take on Newcastle in the Premier League.
During the course of his illustrious career, Ronaldo has been picked up the famed Ballon d'Or trophy on no less than five occasions. A phenomenal achievement - and more than any other individual player in history - except for Lionel Messi.
Between 2009 and 2018, Ronaldo and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi faced off on numerous occasions in El Clasico, the biggest fixture on the Spanish footballing calendar. Ronaldo representing Real Madrid and Messi proudly wearing the colours of his beloved Barcelona.
More often than not, the pair clashed in fixtures that had domestic title implications, as well as bragging rights at stake.
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However, for as fierce as their rivalry was on the pitch (and the Ballon d'Or voting ballot), Ronaldo holds a great deal of respect for his Argentine counterpart.
In fact, in his latest column for the Mail on Sunday, outspoken media personality Piers Morgan revealed just how highly the Champions League's record goalscorer has spoken about Messi to him in the past.
While at dinner in Turin, prior to Ronaldo's Premier League return, Morgan asked the star to name the best player he had ever faced.
"'Messi,' he replied, immediately and emphatically," recalled Morgan. Taken aback by the swiftness of his response, Morgan asked Ronaldo to confirm it.
'For sure. He is the best I've played against,'
"Then he grinned. 'But Piers, you are asking me the wrong question'...'You should just ask me who is the greatest player…'
'I think I know the answer,' Morgan replied, laughing.
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"Ronaldo winked and we clinked glasses. He believes he's the best to ever play the game. And I agree with him," concluded the former Good Morning Britain host.
Having played against almost every major talent of the past 20 years, Ronaldo's praise of Messi shows just how outstanding of a player the now-Paris Saint Germain star truly is - as if it needed confirming!
The duo may have both now moved on to new chapters in their careers but, having competed against one another so doggedly over the years, the mutual respect between Ronaldo and Messi looks sure to live on for a long time to come.News Now - Sport News