RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazilian football legend Pele has described Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best footballer in the current era, rating the Juventus forward ahead of Barcelona's Lionel Messi.
But the 79-year-old believes neither Ronaldo nor Messi are as good as he was during a celebrated career with Santos, the New York Cosmos and Brazil.
"Right now, Cristiano Ronaldo is the best, because he is the most consistent over the past 10 years, although Messi should not be forgotten," Pele said in an interview on the Pilhado YouTube channel.
Ronaldo, 35, has scored 725 goals in 1,000 games for Portugal and all the clubs he has played for over the course of his glittering 18-year career.
But Messi, three years his junior, also boasts an amazing record, having bagged 697 goals in 856 games for Argentina and Barcelona.
Pele, the former Brazil No. 10, also cited compatriots Zico, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo; Germany's Franz Beckenbauer and Johan Cruyff of the Netherlands as his all-time favourite players.
He did not mention former Argentina forward Diego Maradona, widely regarded as his only rival for the title of the greatest player in history.
"There is only one king. Pele was better than all of them," he added.
"If I have to be honest, well, I'm telling you the truth: My father and mother closed the factory. There will only ever be one Pele."
He is the only footballer to win three World Cups, and scored over 1,000 goals - although more than 500 came in unofficial friendlies and tour games - in a professional career that spanned 22 years.
Ronaldo has scored 25 goals for Juventus this campaign before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, including 16 in his last 12 Serie A matches. Juve are on track to win an unprecedented ninth consecutive Scudetto.
Messi has 24 goals in all competitions this season, helping Barca top the La Liga table in their title defence.
Both Juve and Barca are yet to play the second legs of their Champions League quarter-finals, against Lyon and Napoli respectively.