Cristiano Ronaldo Is Now Better Than Lionel Messi, Claims Pele

Nick AkermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2014

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Brazilian legend Pele believes Cristiano Ronaldo has surpassed Lionel Messi as the best player in the world.

As the former Santos striker revealed in an ESPN FC interview, he believes the Real Madrid star deserves to be recognised as the planet's greatest footballer after Messi's recent injury struggles:

I think, no doubt, two years ago the player that was in very, very good condition was Messi. In five years he became the best player in Europe, but in the last two years, and this year, he had a problem: he got injured, he was out this year and he has played few games.

Ronaldo has come through for the past two or three years and is the best in Europe. I think at the moment no doubt Ronaldo is the best player, but until now Messi was the best.

The Ronaldo vs. Messi question splits football fans and pundits across the globe. Pele also suggested Ronaldo "would be better" for him to play alongside, because he possessed the "same game" as Messi during his heyday.

No matter which way your allegiance lies, it is mouthwatering to consider Pele alongside either star, especially when you delve into his statistics:

Ronaldo recently received the 2013 Ballon d'Or after a stunning year for both club and country. Summed up by his terrific hat-trick in the second leg of Portugal's World Cup qualification playoff against Sweden, he is a true leader on the pitch who has the individual ability to rescue any side he represents.

Messi's game has been hampered with injuries in recent times. The Barcelona star is currently getting back to his best at the Camp Nou and has scored four goals in six appearances since returning, per WhoScored.

This coincides with a terrific run of four assists during his last two displays, suggesting Messi will push Ronaldo all the way for next year's personal accolade.

The pair are next set to meet on Mar. 23 in a Bernabeu fixture that could decide where this season's La Liga trophy ends up.

Barcelona are currently joint top with Atletico Madrid on 54 points, with Real keeping pace just one point behind.

Should El Clasico arrive with both teams still in the hunt, Ronaldo's recognition as the greatest player in the world may come under intense scrutiny.