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Barcelona stars hit back at Cristiano Ronaldo’s claim he is the best in the world by saying Lionel Messi is still No 1

Real Madrid chief Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo himself insist he is the king ahead of Saturday's El Clasico but Barca believe Messi is the purists' choice

Zinedine Zidane reckons it is no contest and, predictably, Cristiano Ronaldo agrees with him.

When the Real Madrid legend won his fifth Ballon d’Or recently, he wasted no time declaring himself the best player in history.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano ronaldo have long been at the centre of a debate over who is the best

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Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid counterpart Cristiano Ronaldo have long been at the centre of a debate over who is the best player

Bernabeu boss Zidane, himself a Galactico legend, has the same opinion.

Better than Pele, better than Diego Maradona, better than George Best, Ference Puskas and any other great you name.
When you look beyond the self-proclamations and pouting, Ronaldo clearly does have a case as well.

Yet mention that around the ivory towers of the Nou Camp, and you will be lucky to escape in one piece.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the top individual award again - but opinion among elite players is still divided

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Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo won the top individual award again – but opinion among elite players is still divided

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the best player says fellow Barca legend Xavi

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Lionel Messi is undoubtedly the best player says fellow Barca legend Xavi

For in the eyes of everyone at Barcelona there is only one winner . . . Lionel Messi, the man who also has a nap hand of Golden Balls to his name.

And as far as Xavi, himself one of the most glittering Barca gems of all time, is concerned, there can be no debate.


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Xavi won four Champions Leagues and seven La Ligas among a host of major honours alongside Messi, before joining Qatari outfit Al Sadd in 2015.

And the midfield legend reckons for all Ronaldo’s triumphs, he still cannot hold a candle to the Argentine maestro.

Xavi said: “It’s Cristiano, it’s his character, and he believes he has taken Messi’s Golden Balls, which was unthinkable for those of us who believe in a more collective football.

“For those who believe in the Barca philosophy, we understand Messi is the best player in history.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been the two best players in the world for around a decade

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La Liga legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been the two best players in the world for around a decade

“Cristiano evidently believes he’s the best in the world but, for me, there is no contest.

“Messi has been the cross of Madrid in the last ten to 15 years. Madrid has suffered a lot, the Bernabeu has a lot of respect for him.
“He has been the difference over the years, has always scored goals and is capable of doing what he wants.“

At lunchtime today Ronaldo gets the chance to prove his claim in the first Clasico of the season — one Real HAVE to win to have any hope of pegging back table-topping Barcelona.

Real and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronadlo has had another free-scoring season but knows victory in the El Clasico on Saturday is essential

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Real and Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronadlo has had another free-scoring season but knows victory in the El Clasico on Saturday is essential

The leaders are 11 points clear of Madrid, unbeaten in 24 games — since Real beat them twice in the Spanish Super Cup — and Messi’s 19 goals is eight more than anyone else.

He also holds the Clasico record of 24 goals in 36 matches, and has outscored Ronaldo 19-17 since the one-time Manchester United hero moved to Spain in 2009.


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Yet the Argentine himself won’t be drawn into a row over who is the better player — he has always been more of a team man than individual superstar.

Messi said: “If individual statistics are there also, that’s even better, but they are not the objective — titles are our goal.”

If they emerge unscathed from this one, everyone inside the Nou Camp can start preparing for another.

Barca must overcome the loss of left-back Samuel Umtiti, who has been in outstanding form this season, while Paco Alcacer is also crocked.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are into their 30s but sitll commonly rated as the top two players in the world

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Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are into their 30s but sitll commonly rated as the top two players in the world

Yet at least striker Luis Suarez has rediscovered his scoring touch, hitting six in the last five league games, after only three in the first 11.

Gareth Bale looks destined for a place on the bench, after just three substitute appearances since he suffered a calf injury three months ago.

Isco is likely to get the supporting role to Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.