Wayne Rooney insisted his praise for Lionel Messi is by no means a way of putting down Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rooney reiterated his stance that Messi is the greatest player of all-time during Argentina’s run to the 2022 World Cup final – where they beat France in a thrilling game on Sunday.
In 2012, he wrote on Twitter: “Messi is a joke. For me the best ever.” He then quote tweeted himself more than a decade later to add: “Nothing has changed” after watching him guide his nation into the final.
The ‘GOAT’ debate between Ronaldo and Messi has raged on throughout their careers.
Rooney played with the Portugal superstar at Manchester United, but has had an up and down relationship with him.
Most recently, Ronaldo called him out during his bombshell interview with Piers Morgan after the record Man United goalscorer questioned his conduct.
Rooney harbours no grudge against the 37-year-old and insists his praise for Messi should not be construed as criticism for his old teammate.
Writing in The Times on Saturday, he said: “Some took that as a put-down to Cristiano Ronaldo but nothing could be further from the truth. I have the greatest respect for Cristiano and when people argue he is the greatest, I know where they are coming from and respect that opinion. But, for me, Messi is just different.
I played against him several times and it’s his ability to take and hold the ball, to control games, run at players, pass and score and be the difference.
“Close up, you just can’t get near him. He is always in control. If he has the ball at his feet, he determines everything, your decision-making included. Being his opponent is a difficult place to be.”
Two of those famous games Rooney came up against Messi were in the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, which were both won by Barcelona.
After the 2011 final, he got the match ball signed by Messi, David Villa and Pedro.
Rooney explained just why it is so difficult to play up against the Argentina maestro as France’s defenders found out.
He continued: You want to go and press him but know that if you do, you’re not going to win the ball. There are times you can tackle him, like when he is dribbling directly at you, but usually you’re just not going to dispossess him. You’re bigger than him but can’t use your power against him
“A difference between Messi and nearly every other player who dribbles is that he’s always moving. There is almost never a point when he stops on the ball. He takes off with it and if his path is blocked, he’ll pass the ball to get it back. You go and press and he pops it off and then you might switch off and in that moment he comes alive.
You see it happening a lot: he passes, the defender gets lazy for a split second, and Messi takes the return pass and is away.“
And it takes so much to deal with him that it’s tiring. He wears you down until he becomes almost impossible to stop.”
Messi cemented his status as a God of the game with a fantastic display in the World Cup final.
He scored twice as Argentina beat France on penalties. It was one of the all time great games and Rooney certainly enjoyed it.
“What a game,” he tweeted. “For me the the best ever World Cup final. Great effort from France but congratulations goes to Argentina, a proper team effort.”