Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli is adamant that Lionel Messi has been “the best player in the world” ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo over the last ten years.
Messi and Ronaldo are the two frontrunners for the 2017 Ballon d’Or, with the Real Madrid and Portugal star thought to be the favourite due to his Champions League triumph.
Ronaldo will go level on five Ballon d’Or wins with Messi should he collect the gong this year, with his Champions League and Euro 2016 victories helping him to his success last year.
But for Sampaoli, there is no doubt which of them is the better player, with Messi coming out on top despite Ronaldo’s obvious “extraordinary” qualities.
Sampaoli told Omnisport: “Cristiano is an extraordinary player, but I think and feel that in the last 10 years Messi was the best player in the world, but it is my opinion, by statistics, by amount of goals, assists, flair, style, but it is a particular thought of mine.
Sampaoli definitely feels that Messi and Ronaldo are a cut above the rest, however.
The former Sevilla coach added: “There are some players behind them [Messi and Cristiano], such us Neymar or Luis Suarez, also some youngsters such as [Kylian] Mbappe or [Ousmane] Dembele.
“They will fight for it in the future. However, while Messi and Cristiano keep playing, the others will just fight for the third or fourth position.”
One criticism often levelled at Messi is the fact he is yet to win a major tournament with Argentina, something some believe removes him from the debate of greatest players ever.
But Sampaoli thinks Messi’s general achievements speak for themselves as does not believe the Barcelona star needs to have international success to be considered the best.
He said: “I think in every time there is a footballer who is considered the best: Pele, Maradona and Messi now.
“But now he has remained ten years in Europe, being the best player in the world, scoring more than 500 goals in this so complicated European football.
“So you don’t have to have a World Cup to be the best in the world.