The Dutchman, who won league titles as a player and a manager at Barcelona, sees Ronaldo as a more individualistic talent whose contribution is measured primarily through his goalscoring.
Ballon d'Or favourite Messi, according to Cruyff, possesses the same attacking threat but is also more effective at bringing the best out of his team-mates.
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"Messi is a team player and the splendour of his play makes sense within the collective football of the team," Cruyff told France Football.
"However, the freedom of Ronaldo is in a reduced environment. His position on the pitch is that of a player that thinks that his way of helping the team is scoring goals. There's a difference.
"Messi scores a lot as well, taking advantage of his qualities, but without losing sight of his team-mates."