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Brazilian great Ronaldo plumps for Messi ahead of Cristiano as world's best player

updated 7:14 AM EDT, Fri September 14, 2012
Ronaldo arrived at the 1998 World Cup in France as the most talked about footballer in the world. The 22-year-old scored four goals during the tournament, but confusion and controversy reigned before and after Brazil's 3-0 defeat to France in the final. Ronaldo was initially left out of the starting XI for the Paris match, before being reinstated at the last minute. He was largely anonymous during the match, with the exact details of what occured prior to kick-off still unknown. Ronaldo arrived at the 1998 World Cup in France as the most talked about footballer in the world. The 22-year-old scored four goals during the tournament, but confusion and controversy reigned before and after Brazil's 3-0 defeat to France in the final. Ronaldo was initially left out of the starting XI for the Paris match, before being reinstated at the last minute. He was largely anonymous during the match, with the exact details of what occured prior to kick-off still unknown.
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Despair in Paris at 1998 World Cup
World Cup winner
World Cup goal machine
Club success at Real Madrid
Battle with wounded knee
Hanging up his boots
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Brazil striker picks Messi ahead of Portugal forward as world's best player
  • Three-time winner of Ballon d'Or and double World Cup winner confident Brazil will be great hosts in 2014
  • The 35-year-old says young players like Neymar, Pato and Thiago Silva give Brazil hope of victory

(CNN) -- Few players, pundits or fans would argue who the best two players in the world currently are. Trying to choose between them is another matter. But not for former Brazil striker Ronaldo.

"I give preference to Messi, because he's a player who fascinates us more, who shows more creativity -- even though he's from Argentina, which has a big rivalry with Brazil!" the Brazilian great told CNN's Shasta Darlington.

He admires both players he says, but "Messi is a little above Cristiano Ronaldo."

Cristiano Ronaldo: I'm better than Messi

Like Messi, the 35-year-old is a three-time winner of the FIFA's Ballon d'Or and enjoyed a highly successful club career including spells at Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid -- winning two league titles with the reigning La Liga champions.

Messi wins third straight Ballon D'or

The 35-year-old who finished his playing days at Corinthians in February 2011 was plagued by knee injuries during an illustrious career which reached its peak at the 2002 World Cup in Japan.

Footless footballer to meet Messi

Ronaldo inspired Brazil to their fifth victory in the competition, claiming the Golden Boot award with eight goals -- with two coming in the final against Germany.

"It was an incredible experience. Especially because after 1998 when we lost the final match to France," said Ronaldo.

Hours before that final in 1998 Ronaldo had what his teammates described at the time as a convulsive attack at the team hotel and was rushed to hospital.

Nonetheless he played against France -- making little contribution -- as the hosts coasted to a 3-0 win.

"Brazilians and players were left with that bitter taste in our mouths," added Ronaldo.

"Then came the World Cup of 2002 with big expectations and thank God we managed to make it to the final and beat Germany. I scored two goals in the final, it was truly unforgettable."

With all eyes on Brazil as it prepares to host the next FIFA World Cup in 2014, Ronaldo says his country faces challenges on two fronts.

"First, the organization of a World Cup, which is the biggest challenge in terms of country-wide organization. (The World Cup) today is a very complex event to organize," he says.

But it will also be a challenge to satisfy the expectations of a football-mad nation, he says.

"The Brazilian people have high expectations about winning the cup in our own country and I'm certain that by the time we get to the cup, our team is going to be competitive."

Adding a sixth gold star to the famous yellow and green jersey will be difficult -- Brazil lost to Netherlands at the quarterfinal stage at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa -- but not impossible, Ronaldo says.

"I think in the last victories we had in the World Cup (1994 and 2002), the team was traditionally created in the last year. So I think we still have time," he said.

"We have Neymar, who is a huge talent, Pato, Thiago Silva, who is another excellent defender. Ganso, Oscar. We have a very young team, but it's playing at a high level and gives us big hope for a victory."

However Ronaldo also advised Neymar, who plays for Brazilian club Santos, to sign for a European club and help him join the level Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are playing at.

"I think Neymar still has a phase to compete -- to play in Europe and triumph playing in Europe," added the Brazilian great.

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