'Ronaldo was the best this year but Bale is the best I faced' - former Man City star Richards

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The former England international also spoke highly of the exploits of Lionel Messi, Virgil van Dijk and his old team-mate Mohamed Salah

Cristiano Ronaldo was the best footballer in the world last season, according to former Manchester City star Micah Richards - but Gareth Bale remains the finest player the right-back ever faced.

Portugal star Ronaldo led his country to the inaugural Nations League title last season and also enjoyed an impressive debut campaign with Juventus as he won the Serie A title.

The 34-year-old has again been nominated for FIFA’s The Best men’s award and is on a three-player shortlist alongside old rival Lionel Messi and Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Ronaldo won the FIFA award in its first two years before finishing runner-up to Luka Modric in 2018, and Richards feels the forward is deserving of the accolade again.

However, Richards also praised the exploits of Barcelona legend Messi, who won La Liga and the European Golden Shoe again last season, and Van Dijk, who lifted the Champions League and was named UEFA’s men’s Player of the Year last week.

"I think Ronaldo is the best this year because what he did for his country was amazing," Richards told Goal. "He and Messi are unbelievable; Van Dijk also was good but what Messi and Ronaldo are doing is amazing."

However, despite having crossed swords with Ronaldo during his Manchester United days, Richards does not rate him as his toughest opponent, instead singling out Wales international Bale as the hardest player he faced in his career.

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"For me, it's Gareth Bale," said Richards, who won the Premier League and FA Cup with City. "When he was at Tottenham he was a top player and he still is. Me and him used to have one-on-one battles."

Richards also backed his one-time Fiorentina team-mate and current Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah to continue his fine form as a player at the peak of his powers under Jurgen Klopp, adding: "Salah is my friend, he is a top player.

"I think he will continue for more years. I played with him at Fiorentina and he was doing the same then. For me, I think he will get better and better, and it's good that he has a manager who believes in him."

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