Rio Ferdinand snubs Lionel Messi when naming his toughest ever Champions League opponent
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Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand snubbed Lionel Messi when naming his toughest ever Champions League opponent.
Messi helped Barcelona lift four Champions League trophies during his illustrious 17-year stint at the Nou Camp. After triumphing in 2006 as a teenager, he guided the club to two 2-0 and 3-1 wins over United in the summit clash of the continental competition in 2009 and 2011 respectively.
On both occasions the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was instrumental to the Catalan giants' victory over Sir Alex Ferguson's men, netting a goal in each final.
However, Ferdinand, who featured in both games for United, has snubbed Messi when choosing his favourite ever Champions League player.
Ferdinand said: “Do you know what I thought about the big players like [Zidane]? They don't even acknowledge you, there's a little bit of arrogance and they can't even really see you. That's the way they are.
“Dennis Bergkamp was the same. I used to think that elite players, him and Zidane especially, I used to think 'they don't even know who I am, man [laughs].’
Asked if he remembers Ronaldo's famous Old Trafford hat-trick in 2003, Ferdinand said: “Course I do. I played centre-back against him [laughs]. He’s another alien, he’s another alien!
“I know I always say this, but two of his goals, another goalkeeper saves it. Edwin [van der Sar] saves both of them. There's two goals in that game [that could be saved] I think, but you still can't discredit Ronaldo. He was a ridiculous footballer.
“There’s certain players where you say, ‘I'm a fan before anything’. There's only Ronaldo and Zidane, they were the two main ones in my career where I went, ‘I'm actually a fan, when I was growing up, I was looking at you.’”
Despite not mentioning Messi in the conversation on this occasion, Ferdinand has spoken on various occasions about the Argentina World Cup winner's incredible influence in both of the Barcelona's Champions League finals against United.
Meanwhile, Hargreaves said: “I mean, there were so many amazing ones. I mean, my favourite was Zidane in a way. You know, I didn't realise how big he was until I played against him.
“As beautiful a player as he was, I was quicker than him so he couldn't really get away from me. But he knew that too. So, he would just dangle the ball and you think you can get it, and then he would just spin and pirouette away.
“I remember just looking at him in the game thinking: ‘my God’. He was just so graceful and he was so quiet on the pitch as well. He didn't really talk.
“You know, when you play somebody like that, you look at him and I know you're a little bit in awe, but you've still got to compete.
“And he was the one guy, I thought he just had this presence.”
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