Francesco Totti believes Lionel Messi is the best player in the world despite Cristiano Ronaldo pulling level on five Ballons d'Or apiece earlier this month.
Real Madrid's dual La Liga and Champions League triumphs last season set Ronaldo up to claim world football's premier individual prize but Messi has also blazed a familiarly impressive trail.
The mercurial Argentinian inspired a 3-0 win for Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu last Saturday, with Ronaldo a largely becalmed presence in the latest edition of the Clasico.
Totti was a similarly adored figure during a superb playing career at Roma that spanned three decades.
Although he now sees events such as Neymar's world-record move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain as an example of football breaking distastefully with its past, the former Italy forward is happy to marvel at the two greats of this generation.
"I really preferred the football of a long time ago. Today it is just crazy," he said at the Dubai International Sports Conference.
"Football has deeply changed between my time and now. I prefer the romantic football of before, now it is all about business.
"There are players like Ronaldo and Neymar, but Neymar is an example of this big price, it is too much to pay €250m for a player. This goes beyond reality.
"But Messi is number one, just don't tell Cristiano!"
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