Despite his dramatic exit in November, Cristiano Ronaldo is still hailed as one of the best players to ever pull on a Manchester United shirt.
But while Ronaldo has cemented himself in Old Trafford legend, one of his ex-Red Devils teammates isn’t convinced he’s the greatest footballer of all time.
When Ronaldo stepped on the scene in English football in 2003, he quickly turned from awkward, inexperienced teenager to polished and dangerous winger.
And one of those players that got to witness his rapid rise was teammate Kieran Richardson, who came through the Red Devils‘ academy the year before Ronaldo’s arrival.
Richardson made 81 first team appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson between 2002 and 2007, with over 40 of those games seeing him play alongside Ronaldo.
Since the Portugal star’s arrival at Old Trafford all those years ago, he’s picked up five Ballon d’Or awards and 32 trophies including winning the European Championships with Portugal in 2016.
But in a recent appearance on the business podcast The Steven Sulley Study, when Richardson was asked what side he takes in the Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo GOAT debate, the footballer-turned-luxury watch investor didn’t choose his former teammate.
“They’re both the GOATs,” Richardson, now 38, said, “But, if I had to pick one, then I have to pick Messi, even though I know Ronaldo, I’ve played with Ronaldo, I love Ronaldo.
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“They’re both amazing, they’re both GOATs.”
And for Richardson there’s one key reason behind why he sees Argentina and Barcelona legend Messi as the better of the two.
“When they pass away, they’ll still be talked about forever, but just because Messi got that World Cup,” he said.
“It’s a massive thing having that World Cup, because even before Messi had the World Cup, everyone was saying ‘yeah, but he hasn’t won it yet’.
“‘He can’t be the best of all time because [Diego] Maradona won it, Pele won it’.
“Now there is no question, he’s won the pinnacle any footballer would want to win. Even though they get their own accolades, World Player of the Year so many times, but as a footballer, when you’re thinking as a kid, you want to win a World Cup.
“That’s all you want to win.”
As Messi finally won the only award in football that had evaded him throughout his career at Qatar 2022, Ronaldo’s Portugal had crashed out against Morocco in the quarter-finals.
Not only did his rival beat him on the world stage, but Ronaldo also got pushed out of his national team side despite being captain as youngster Goncalo Ramos took his place.
Just prior to the competition, Ronaldo gave an explosive interview to TalkTV, taking issue with a number of experiences he had during his second spell at Old Trafford following his return in 2021.
His contract was then mutually terminated, leaving him a free agent for the World Cup. However he then signed a £177million a year deal with Saudi Arabia side Al Nassr until 2025.
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