Frank Rijkaard believes that Andres Iniesta deserved to be recognized as the best footballer in Europe, and claims that the Barcelona star is one of the greatest players he has ever worked with.
Iniesta beat off competition from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to claim UEFA's Best Player in Europe prize at an awards ceremony last Friday, just weeks after claiming the governing body's Golden Ball prize for being the best player at Euro 2012.
And the Dutchman, who coached the midfielder at Camp Nou between 2003 and 2008, believes that his latest gong is fully merited.
"Iniesta deserves it. He has been named the best player of many tournaments such as the European Championship and in the World Cup final. I'm glad because he is an example for any player," he told reporters at a press conference.
However, when asked who he would select given the choice between Iniesta or Spain and Barcelona team-mate Xavi, the Saudi Arabia coach refused to answer: "When a parent has two children, it is difficult to pick one favorite."
And he also refused to be drawn on the age old debate of whether Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo is the better player.
"It would not be honest if I did a review because I've worked with Leo Messi, whom I consider the best player I've seen," he continued. "I cannot comment or compare with Cristiano Ronaldo because I have not worked with him. That is not to say that I do not have as much respect for Cristiano as a footballer."
The former Dutch international also asked for fans to be understanding of Ronaldo, who claimed on Sunday that he was unhappy with life at Real Madrid.
"Players are sometimes sad, sometimes happy during their sporting career. For his performance on the field, Cristiano should be happy because he is always the player who leads the way in Madrid," he added. "In his private life I cannot speak, we have to respect what he says."
Rijkaard also believes that new Barca coach Tito Vilanova will find it hard to follow in the footsteps of Pep Guardiola.
"The players are almost the same, but for Tito it will not be easy because Pep has left the team having won almost everything. Now it is not so easy being the coach of Barcelona, so I think that Tito must have the full support of those around him," he concluded.
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