Van Dijk? Pique? Ramos? Barcelona icon Puyol picks world’s best centre-half

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A man who once filled the position with distinction at Camp Nou has made his selection as the cream of the crop from the class of 2019

Carles Puyol has remained loyal to his Barcelona roots when placing Gerard Pique above Sergio Ramos and Virgil van Dijk in the pecking order of best centre-halves.

As a Catalan native who spent his entire career on the Blaugrana’s books, it should come as no surprise to see the 40-year-old backing the cause of those at Camp Nou.

He once figured alongside Pique in a trophy-laden era for Barca and is not about to nudge a former colleague from the top of the global pile.

A World Cup winner does face fierce competition in the modern era for the title of finest on the planet, however.

Netherlands international Van Dijk is starring for Liverpool, fellow countryman Matthijs de Ligt catching the eye and being named Golden Boy as a teenager at Ajax, while Ramos continues to lead by example for Real Madrid.

Puyol, though, is in no doubt as to who is the pick of the bunch, telling Marca: “Gerard Pique, without a doubt.”

Quizzed on whether Pique can be considered better than he was, a man who made 593 senior appearances for Barcelona added: “Yes, he's the best central defender in the world.

“We're different. He is key to Barcelona in everything he contributes, in his leadership. He's a phenomenon and a great friend.”

Pique is currently looking to play his part in the securing of more major silverware in 2018-19.

Barca are back at the top of La Liga, through to the final of the Copa del Rey and last eight of the Champions League without being considered to have performed at their best.

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2018-19

It has been suggested that there is an over-reliance on the mercurial talents of Lionel Messi at Camp Nou, with Puyol saying of those claims: “When you have the best player in history it's logical that you depend on him.

“However, there have been great players around him who are making history too.”

While eager to talk up the collective contribution at Camp Nou, Puyol has also sought to play down any suggestion that Messi places great emphasis on an individual battle with Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Juventus superstar netted a Champions League hat-trick against Atletico Madrid recently, only to see Messi respond with a brace of his own 24 hours later and a stunning treble in La Liga action against Real Betis.

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“I don't believe Messi reacts to anything,” said Puyol.

“It's just his way of playing, he's always decisive. To say Messi played well against Lyon because of Ronaldo's hat-trick just doesn't make sense.

“In 10 matches where Messi plays, nine will be spectacular and the other one will just be very good.”

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