It was only a few days ago that Ronaldo drew level with Messi on five Ballon d'Or wins, and Rakitic was full of praise for his club-mate after the Argentina international scored in Barca's 2-0 victory over Villarreal on Sunday.
Per Marca, he said: "Cristiano has been unfortunate to have played in the same era as the best. With all due respect to Cristiano, in my eyes Leo is unique; there is only one No. 1. Ronaldo has been forced to measure himself against the greatest player ever."
Two goals in 11 minutes sealed the win for Barcelona and restored their five-point gap at La Liga's summit, with Messi continuing his recent goalscoring form in the process:
⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️⚽️ 14 goals in 15 #LaLiga games for Lionel Messi!! 🔥 #VillarrealBarça https://t.co/uUjE27yDMC2017-12-10 22:02:38
Ronaldo won the 2017 Ballon d'Or in a year that he and Real clinched a La Liga and UEFA Champions League double, not to mention becoming the first team to successfully defend the latter title.
Spanish football writer Andy West concurred with Rakitic's assessment of the Messi-Ronaldo debate, arguing their head-to-head ultimately comes down to more than just figures:
Andy West @andywest01
Stats are very useful in understanding and analysing sport, no doubt about it. But you don't need stats to know that Lionel Messi is better than Cristiano Ronaldo. You just need eyes.2017-12-8 17:19:38
Ronaldo's most recent Ballon d'Or triumph means he has now picked up four of the last five such awards, having been selected best player in the world every year since 2013—with the exception of 2015, Messi's most recent win.
The Champions League also shared another achievement recorded by Messi after his display against Villarreal, further etching his name into the European history books:
★ #UCLdraw ★ @ChampionsLeague
Lionel Messi brings up goal number 5⃣2⃣5⃣ for Barcelona, equalling Gerd Müller's record for goals with a single club in Europe's top five leagues. 👏👏👏 #UCL https://t.co/CsNeT0Clfj2017-12-10 21:43:07
Rakitic undoubtedly has a biased opinion on the matter, not to mention the fact he's never played alongside Ronaldo, while Messi has been a team-mate of his since he joined from Sevilla in the summer of 2014.
Ronaldo may have won the battle in collecting back-to-back Ballons d'Or for the second time in his career this month, but it's Messi who still wins the war, according to the Croatia international.