Alessandro Nesta was a World Cup-winning centre-half in his heyday, with the iconic Italian lining up against some of the very best forwards in the business - but even he admits to being "mentally destroyed" after facing Lionel Messi.
One of the finest defenders to ever grace the game found himself up against the Argentine superstar for AC Milan in Champions League clashes with Barcelona in 2011-12.
Nesta was 37 years of age by that point while Messi was at the peak of his powers in a 73-goal season, and the legendary defender admits being nudged a step closer to retirement by the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.
What has been said?
Nesta told Calciatori Brutti: "In the tenth minute I kicked Messi and fell to the ground exhausted, I could see the stars. He was already giving me his hand to pull me up. There he mentally destroyed me.
"Do you understand? I was on the ground and when after two seconds I open my eyes, I see his face with his hand in front that he wanted to help me get up. He mentally destroyed me there."
Messi vs Ronaldo?Getty/Goal composite
Nesta, who conquered the world with Italy in 2006, is one of those to have crossed paths with Messi and his rival Cristiano Ronaldo when both were at the very top of their game. He is therefore well positioned to pass judgement on who poses the greater threat.
Asked to offer his opinion on the long-running debate as to which all-time great can be considered the best, Nesta said: "I played against both Ronaldo and Messi. The little one (Messi) is phenomenal: but the other scores 40 goals a year. They are both strong each in their own way. I prefer not to meet Messi between the two."