When Cristiano Ronaldo declared himself as the best player in football history back in 2017, it was all too much for Barcelona legend Xavi.
Ronaldo had just won his fifth Ballon d’Or award following another outstanding season with Real Madrid when he made the comments.
“I don’t see anyone better than me,” the legendary Portuguese forward told France Football, per The Independent. “No player does things that I cannot do myself, but I see things others can’t do.
“There’s no more complete player than me. I’m the best player in history — in the good and the bad moments.”
Even for Ronaldo, whose self-belief has always been off the scale, this seemed like an extraordinary statement to make.
Not so much the part about him believing that he’s the best player in history, but more the bit where he said ‘no player does things that I cannot do myself’.
How did Xavi respond to Ronaldo’s comments?
Xavi had to publicly speak out when he read Ronaldo’s eyebrow-raising comments.
Having spent so many years playing and training alongside Lionel Messi, Ronaldo’s long-term rival at Barcelona and also the winner of five Ballon d’Or awards (now six) at the time, Xavi was convinced that Cristiano was talking nonsense.
“Messi does more things compared to Cristiano,” the World Cup winner told Tot Costa de Catalunya Ràdio, per AS. “Messi is the best.”
Xavi continued: “If Cristiano considers himself the best player in history, that’s fine, but those of us who see him train, there is no comparison.
“Messi is the best in history and we don’t see it any other way.”
The Spaniard, who went head-to-head with Ronaldo on many occasions throughout his illustrious career, added: “I imagine all of the managers in the world going out to stop Messi. Even if you do what Athletic Club did, man-mark him like in the Copa del Rey final, they still come out on top. He can’t be defended against.
“Messi is the difference-maker and we always tried to give the ball to him in space with time to unbalance them. Messi is the player that makes the most difference in the world. It’s more than obvious.”
Who is football’s GOAT?
The debate over football’s true GOAT will continue long after Messi and Ronaldo have both retired.
More legends will be made over the coming years and decades, while the reputations of the sport’s most iconic names – Pele, Diego Maradona, Johan Cruyff, Alfredo Di Stefano and so on – are now part of football folklore forever.
But in Xavi’s eyes, Ronaldo will never be in the same league as his former Barça teammate.