Former Manchester United stars Rio Ferdinand and Owen Hargreaves have named Ronaldo Nazario and Zinedine Zidane respectively as the two best players they faced in Europe.
Ferdinand and Hargreaves spoke to club media ahead of United’s return to action in the Champions League against Galatasaray on Tuesday.
The two ex-players of course lifted the trophy in 2008 – the last time the Red Devils were named European champions.
Hargreaves also won it with Bayern Munich.
They therefore have a solid understanding of the competition and what it takes to win it.
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.”
The TNT pundit added, “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.”
Ferdinand was questioned about whether he remembered Ronaldo’s hat trick at Old Trafford in 2003.
He replied affirmatively and explained that he was playing that day and had a humbling experience.
“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.”
He backed Owen’s claims that one can only admire players of the calibre of Zidane and Ronaldo before even seeing them as direct rivals.
When asked whether he got Ronaldo’s shirt, Ferdinand said he was not able to acquire it as he couldn’t get close enough to the legendary Brazilian forward.