Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is “unequivocally number one” in the world, with Cristiano Ronaldo not in his league, according to Hristo Stoichkov.
The Real Madrid forward remains locked in a personal battle with an eternal rival from Camp Nou for the right to be considered the best player on the planet.
Ronaldo is the current holder of the Ballon d’Or and favourite to draw level with Messi on five wins apiece in 2017.
Stoichkov, though, believes the Argentine holds the advantage when it comes to true icon status, with his talents compared to those of the past while Ronaldo is compared to Messi.
The former Barca striker told Sport Express: “Messi - unequivocally number one, he always plays for the team. Crazy technique, intelligence, and yet Messi - not selfish, it is very important.
“People compare Messi with Di Stefano , Pele , Cruyff . But Ronaldo is compared to Messi. That says a lot.
“He will never will be the same as Messi. And Real will never be the same play as Barcelona.”
Messi netted 54 times in 52 appearances during the 2016-17 campaign, with that return enough to earn him a fourth Golden Shoe.
Ronaldo, meanwhile, contributed 42 to the Madrid cause, but his efforts saw him land La Liga and Champions League titles – passing the 100-goal mark in the latter of those competitions.