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Messi vs Ronaldo: Those who pick Cristiano know nothing about football, says Van Basten

00:34 GMT 29/02/2020
Lionel Messi Cristiano Ronaldo Barcelona Real Madrid 2013-14
While the Oranje idol has nothing but respect for the Juventus forward, he believes talents like Leo come around once in a blue moon

Netherlands legend Marco van Basten has weighed in on the Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo debate, claiming that people who prefer the latter know nothing about football. 

The argument over which of the pair deserves the tag of the greatest active player has rumbled on for years. 

For almost a decade Messi and Ronaldo were direct rivals in La Liga with Barcelona and Real Madrid; the Argentine enjoying greater fortune in the league with his club, while Cristiano and the Merengue helped themselves to four Champions League titles in five seasons. 

And it is similarly difficult to separate them in terms of awards. Messi boasts six Ballons d'Or, more than any other player in the prize's history, closely followed by Ronaldo with five. 

Many pros past and present have lent their opinions to the debate, but Van Basten believes there is little doubt over the identity of the best out of the two.

"Cristiano is a great player, but those who say he is better than Messi know nothing about football, or they are saying it in bad faith," the former Ajax, Milan and Oranje hitman told Corriere dello Sport

"Messi is one of a kind. Impossible to imitate and impossible to repeat. A player like him comes along every 50 or 100 years. 

"As a kid, he fell into the football genius pot."

Van Basten of course was no mean footballer himself, bursting onto the scene with Ajax as a teenager and scoring an incredible 172 goals in 152 matches for the Dutch giants. 

That prodigious form earned him a move to Milan, who under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello were one of the most formidable sides in the world in the late 1980s and early 90s. 

His time at San Siro yielded two European Cups and three Scudetti, while there was also glory at international level as he helped Netherlands take Euro 1988 alongside Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Prior to the emergence of Messi and Ronaldo he was one of only three players to have won the Ballon d'Or on three occasions, a feat shared by compatriot Johan Cruyff and France legend Michel Platini.

Van Basten's time at the top, however, was cut short by a horrific run of injuries; and he believes that were it not for those physical woes he could have been even better.

"I basically stopped playing at 28. I had already won three Ballons d'Or," he added. 

"Just look at Ronaldo and Messi, both over 30, where they are now."