Ronaldo Nazario ranks himself alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona as part of a “very special group” of football’s greatest ever players.
Legendary forward Ronaldo led Brazil to their most recent World Cup triumph 20 years ago, scoring eight goals as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team sealed the country’s fifth title in Japan and South Korea.
No Brazilian has ever bettered Ronaldo’s tally at a single edition of the tournament, while his total return of 15 World Cup goals has only been beaten by Germany’s Miroslav Klose (16).
While Ronaldo believes his exploits put him in the pantheon of footballing greats, he told the Guardian it was difficult to compare his abilities to those of players from different generations.
Asked to choose between seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi and another Argentina icon in Maradona, Ronaldo said: “That’s unfair!
“I think there is a very, very special group where you have Diego, Messi, [Johan] Cruyff, [Franz] Beckenbauer, Pele, [Marco] Van Basten, Ronaldinho. I would include myself.
“Let the fans say, let them debate it in the bars. But you can’t rank them, can’t compare generations.
“People call me the ‘original’ Ronaldo but there were others – and they weren’t false.
“I’m not the only one, and more will come along and be better than me in everything. I did what I could, the best I could.”
Brazil’s hopes of repeating their 2002 World Cup win will depend largely on the form of Neymar, who has been involved in 42 per cent of the Selecao’s World Cup goals since making his tournament debut in 2014 (8/19 – six goals, two assists).
Ronaldo compared the abilities of the Paris Saint-Germain forward to those of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, insisting no football fan could fail to enjoy watching him play.
“People love him a lot,” Ronaldo added of Neymar. “If we talk specifically about football, I doubt there’s anyone who doesn’t love him. His private life transcends football, but I’m not interested.
“He’s daring, has skill, variety, is quick, scores goals, has personality. You could compare him to Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, even though they are from a different planet.
“On the pitch Neymar is one [thing], then people mix in all the other stuff.”