Wayne Rooney Rates Barcelona's Lionel Messi Above Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo

Jason PettigroveContributor IMarch 24, 2014

Wayne Rooney rates Lionel Messi as "the best ever."
Wayne Rooney rates Lionel Messi as "the best ever."Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney has told of his admiration for Barcelona's Lionel Messi in a recent interview, rating him above ex-team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo.

During a question-and-answer session with bwin.com, the Manchester United striker was asked:

"Which current footballer do you most like watching?"

His answer won't necessarily come as a surprise, but he may have put his ex-colleague's nose out of joint.

Without any hesitation, Rooney responded by saying: "Lionel Messi, because I think he's the best. He's incredible."

It's not the first time Rooney has been so lavish in his praise of the diminutive striker. Back in 2012, after Messi had scored five in a 7-1 romp for Barcelona over Bayer Leverkusen, Rooney tweeted:

Of course, football is all about opinions, and the great Pele seems to share the same one as Rooney.

On a recent promotional tour in Dubai, the legendary Brazilian was asked for his thoughts on the Messi/Ronaldo debate. Gary Meenaghan of The National chronicled his answer:

Now it is Messi, no doubt. He has been the one playing at the top for the past few years.

Now we have Cristiano Ronaldo, who has a different style, is a great goalscorer and an excellent player, but Messi is the player who has been more consistent over the past few years.

For all of Pele's and Rooney's effusiveness toward Barca's record-breaker, there will be others to sing the praises of Ballon d'Or holder Ronaldo. 

But if we take a look at just the recent stats of the Barcelona maestro, it would be hard to argue with why Rooney rates Messi at the top of the football tree.

Per WhoScored.com, since the turn of the year, the Argentine has been better than his Real Madrid contemporary in all departments.

Lionel Messi vs. Cristiano Ronaldo 2014
GamesGoalsAssistsMan of the Match awards
Lionel Messi1820912
Cristiano Ronaldo171557

If further proof were necessary as to Messi's influence and genius on the football pitch, it was provided in a storming El Clasico contest on Sunday evening.

The Argentine's hat-trick took him clear of Alfredo Di Stefano's record for all-time El Clasico goals, and he also surged past Real Madrid legend Hugo Sanchez as the foreign player to have scored most goals in La Liga.

His assist for Andres Iniesta's opener was a record 12th for any player in this fixture. He was as incisive and decisive as Ronaldo was peripheral.

Perhaps, Rooney was right.