Pep Guardiola was unequivocal in his view of who is the best footballer in the world, the Manchester City manager having no doubt that Lionel Messi still reigns supreme.
Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo pipped Messi to the Ballon d’Or last week, leaving him one behind his Barca rival in terms of his career tally in football’s most coveted individual award.
The numbers lie 5-4 in Messi’s favour after Ronaldo was rewarded for helping Madrid and Portugal to respective Champions League and Euro 2016 glory this year.
Messi put forward a dazzling counter-argument last weekend with a sublime display as Barca dispatched neighbours Espanyol 4-0 in La Liga and his coach Luis Enrique spoke disparagingly of the awards race on Friday, decrying an obsession with “golden melons”.
Guardiola fell short of his Camp Nou successor’s vitriol when addressing a news conference ahead of the Premier League trip to Hull City, but he is still an unquestioning advocate of Messi’s superiority.
“I agree with Luis. Messi is the best, he is definitely the best,” he told reporters.
“He knows how to play, score and make the other players play. He is always there.
“With all the respect to all the players, first to Cristiano Ronaldo – congratulations to him for the award – I think Messi is on another level.”