Ruud van Nistelrooy has explained why he still picks Cristiano Ronaldo over Lionel Messi in the GOAT debate.
Messi and Ronaldo are rightly viewed as the two greatest players of their generation and regularly competed for major honours for nearly two decades.
Argentina superstar Messi has won the Ballon d’Or more times than another player in history, seven, while Ronaldo is second on the list with five wins.
While they have both won numerous trophies in club football, it is perhaps only on the international stage that Messi holds a clear advantage over his great rival – having first led Argentina to the Copa America in 2021 before finally winning his first World Cup at Qatar 2022.
While Ronaldo won Euro 2016 with Portugal, he has never claimed football’s greatest prize with his nation and at 38, is now unlikely to do so.
Van Nistelrooy still picks Ronaldo over Messi
Despite Argentina’s World Cup win, former United striker Van Nistelrooy says he will always picks Ronaldo over Messi in the GOAT debate because of his loyalty to his former teammate.
“I always say Cristiano because you have a past with him,” Van Nistelrooy told Gary Neville onThe Overlap.
The Dutch striker, who scored 150 goals in 219 games during his time at United, also revealed his toughest-ever opponent – naming the legendary AC Milan defence which came up against United in the Champions League in 2005.
“I always say when we played Milan away in the last 16, it was Cafu, [Alessandro] Nesta, Jaap [Stam] and [Paolo] Maldini. That was the back four with [Gennaro] Gattuso in front. Okay, that was too much, that was too much,” added Van Nistelrooy.
“I would say when I played Jaap in that game, I know playing with him for the national team and United, but actually playing against him, that was a beast. Quick, also on the turn because that’s when you want to beat these guys, the determination, the aggressiveness as well. It’s a lot.”
He also revealed the biggest regret of his career was leaving Real Madrid for Hamburg in 2010.
“I shouldn’t have left Madrid at the time. I was with [Manuel] Pellegrini at the time and they signed [Karim] Benzema, Ronaldo and Kaka. There was no place for me and I understood that and accepted it – I was 33,” said Van Nistelrooy.
“But I wanted to give it a go, to go to the World Cup in 2010. It was too quick a decision from me. Also for my family it wasn’t the right thing at the time.
“Looking back, I shouldn’t have done that.”