By Rahul Bali
Brazil legend Carlos Alberto has claimed that while Franck Ribery is "playing very well" at the moment, the Bayern Munich ace is "not on the same level" as Ballon d'Or rivals Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The three players have been shortlisted for the prestigious individual honour, which will be presented at a special ceremony on January 13.
It is believed that it will come down to a straight fight between Ribery and Ronaldo, given Messi's year has been interrupted by injuries, but Carlos Alberto can only see one winner.
“Ronaldo is in a very good phase," the World Cup winner told Goal. "I believe he will win the award for best player in the world.
"Messi has an injury and is not playing. I like Ribery but he is not on the same level as Ronaldo or Messi. But in this moment, he is playing very well.
"It would be very tough to pick out a winner."
Although Neymar failed to make the three-man shortlist, the Brazil international has drawn huge praise for the way in which he has settled at Barcelona following his summer switch for Santos.
Carlos Alberto is not in the least bit surprised that his compatriot is proving himself a genuine world-class talent at Camp Nou, though, as he believes the forward is a future Ballon d'or winner.
“Neymar is 21 years old," the former right-back mused. "We have confidence in Neymar for the World Cup and, for sure, in the next few years, he will be the best in the world.”It has been suggested that Brazil could have problems at the other end of the pitch, though, with David Luiz and Julio Cesar currently struggling for game time, at Chelsea and QPR, respectively.
However, Carlos Alberto is not in the least bit concerned about the Selecao's first-choice back four.
“We don’t worry about our defence," the 69-year-old declared. "We still have good players for the national team.
"For sure, Luiz will be in the team even if he doesn’t play regularly for his club. Whenever Julio Cesar is called for the national team, he does well. So, no problem there either.”