The Dutch legend believes that the diminutive Argentine is technically superior to his Portuguese rival, and also backed Pep Guardiola's decision to step down as Blaugrana boss
The two attackers are tied on 43 goals in the battle for this season's Pichichi award in Spain and many pundits believe that it is impossible to split the pair in terms of talent.
However, Cruyff feels that the Blaugrana man, who has won the Ballon d'Or for the past three years, has the edge.
"Messi or Cristiano?" the Dutch legend mused in an interview with Cadena COPE. "Messi, because he's in love with the ball. He's pure technique and he's a good kid."
Meanwhile, the former Barca boss backed current coach Pep Guardiola's decision to stand down at the end of the season after four years at the helm.
"Guardiola made the right call," the 65-year-old argued. "He'll be back one day, but I don't know if it will be as coach."
Guardiola was a member of Cruyff's 'Dream Team', who won four successive Spanish titles at the start of the 1990s, as well as Barca's first European Cup.
Starting last month and continuing for 10 weeks, Goal.com is publishing exclusive extracts from Luca Caioli's new book, Ronaldo: The Obsession for Perfection. The sixth extract, published on Friday, looks at his display for Man Utd in the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea in Moscow, including the Portuguese's missed penalty in the shoot-out. Don't miss it!