Kaka labelled Lionel Messi a "genius" as he picked the Barcelona superstar over Juventus' Cristiano Ronaldo.

Messi – winner of a record six Ballons d'Or – and Ronaldo are regarded as two of the greatest ever players, with debate often centred on who stands alone atop the all-time list.

Kaka played alongside Ronaldo at Real Madrid, but the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner selected Messi as his preferred choice.

"I played with Cristiano and he's really amazing, but I'll go with Messi," Kaka said when asked who he would pick out of Messi or Ronaldo during an Instagram Live Q&A for FIFA's channel.

"He's a genius, a pure talent. The way he plays is incredible."

But on five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo, Kaka added: "Cristiano is a machine. It's not just the way he's strong, powerful and fast; he's strong mentally.

"He always wants to win and play. To be the best. For me, that's the most incredible thing he has.

"In the history of sport, they [Messi and Cristiano] are definitely in the top five. We are very lucky to have been able to see both of them."

In a rush to venerate Pele, the relaunched New York Cosmos announced in 2013 they would be retiring the team's number 10 shirt.

The only trouble with such a tribute was that in 1977 they had already retired the jersey, so the bootlicking gesture fell rather flat.

When it comes to Brazil, for whom Pele also wore number 10, there has never been a question of standing down that number.

Rather than ceremonially wave goodbye to such an historic emblem, the 10 emblazoned across the back of yellow and green speaks of supreme South American cachet.

Ronaldinho, who turns 40 on Saturday, wore those colours and often that number with distinction across an international career that spanned almost 15 years.

Here is an attempt to rank Brazil's greatest number 10 heroes.

1. Pele

When it comes to iconic figures in Brazil, you start at Pele and work down. Pele before Ronaldo, Pele before Ayrton Senna, Pele before even Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue. A three-time World Cup winner, Pele scored over 1,000 goals across his career - a haul that to this day sparks fiery debate. There is often the argument that a player cannot be bigger than his club, yet in the case of Pele and Santos that theory can be debunked. John Lennon once claimed The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but Pele was bigger still than The Beatles. He joined the Cosmos in the twilight of his career and was feted in the United States, where football previously held little sway.

2. Zico

Alex Ferguson once described Wayne Rooney as "the white Pele", but that description better suits Zico, talisman of the Brazil team that flirted with greatness but fell agonisingly short. The Rio-born attacking midfielder is held in reverence by those that remember him weaving his magic for the Selecao and particularly Flamengo at club level, for whom he scored over 400 goals. A free-kick master, Zico also had successful spells at Udinese and Kashima Antlers and featured consistently highly in a string of polls assessing the best players of the 21st century. He deserved a World Cup triumph but never got one.

3. Rivaldo

Rivaldo forever tainted his legacy with shameful play-acting against Turkey at the 2002 World Cup. To "do a Rivaldo" ought to mean accomplishing a spectacular piece of skill, yet to a certain generation it will always mean flinging oneself down and feigning injury. Still, what a player he was. Better with Barcelona than with his national team, it might be argued, after five dazzling years at Camp Nou. Rivaldo was outshone by Ronaldo during Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, and he had perhaps just hit the downward slope of his career at that point. But watch his 2001 hat-trick for Barcelona against Valencia that earned his team a Champions League place and be wowed, and 35 goals from 74 Brazil caps isn't half bad.

4. Ronaldinho

Happy birthday fella. Back in the days when his quick feet were a passport to wealth and glory, and long before his passport was a passport to prison yard kickabouts, Ronaldinho was a whirligig of a footballer, a player for whom slow-mo replays might have been designed. His trickery could be deceptive on the eye, but they knew at Paris Saint-Germain and they knew at Barcelona that a genius lurked in their midst. He shone at the 2002 World Cup – number 11 back then to Rivaldo's number 10 – and was twice a FIFA World Player of the Year. He loved partying, maybe a little too much, but Ronaldinho was never one for restraint, on or off the pitch.

5. Jair

If that name sounds familiar, it might be because Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro was named after this star of a long-bygone Brazilian era. Jair, an outstanding inside-forward of the day, had not only the number 10 on the back of his shirt in the 1950 World Cup title decider, but the weight of a nation's expectations too. The tournament format was unusual that year, but it came down to a round-robin finale between hosts Brazil and South American rivals Uruguay, who defied all expectation to snatch a 2-1 win. Jair reputedly said: "I'll take that loss to my grave." He scored bundles of goals for the likes of Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, Palmeiras and Santos, and died aged 84 in 2005.

6. Neymar

Neymar stands every chance of climbing this list. The Paris Saint-Germain and former Barcelona forward has over 100 caps and 61 goals for his country, and the 28-year-old perhaps suffers from comparisons to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Greatness beckons and is within touching distance.

7. Rivelino

Diego Maradona once described Rivelino as "one of the best ever", and the Brazilian's influence on Argentina's greatest player has always been clear. A left-footed attacking midfielder, Rivelino had magnetic close control and found routes to slalom through defences that looked impassible. He is widely credited with perfecting, if not inventing, the 'flip flap' motion designed to wrong-foot and leave defenders standing, Rivelino's mastery of that technique a clear influence of future Brazil greats including Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. He was Brazil's number 11 at the 1970 World Cup – Pele being the 10 – but then had the shirt every samba star would want for the '74 and '78 finals.

8. Marta

Sorry, who's this guy? If the name is unfamiliar, then now is enlightenment time. Marta finished ahead of Mia Hamm in a 2016 Guardian poll of experts to judge the greatest female footballer of all time. A sumptuously gifted forward, she has scored a record 17 World Cup goals and been voted FIFA's best female player six times. Her dribbling is a delight, her finishing nerveless.

9. Kaka

Last seen playing five-a-side as a publicity stunt in London, Kaka's star shone brightest in his Milan years, with a six-year San Siro spell from 2003 to 2009 seeing the attacking midfielder dazzle in Serie A and the Champions League. Four years at Real Madrid followed and he had spells towards the end of his playing life with Sao Paulo, also turning out for Orlando City in MLS. The deeply religious player won 92 caps for Brazil, scoring 29 times, and was a World Cup winner in 2002, albeit playing just 25 minutes against Costa Rica. That was in the infancy of his Brazil career, and despite his blossoming in later years, being far more involved in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, it was his lone World Cup triumph.

10. Rai

Not the Italian public broadcaster but the former Paris Saint-Germain star, who pipped the likes of Leonardo and Juninho to make this list. Rai was a fine player who nevertheless would have been forgiven for having mixed emotions when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup. He began the tournament as captain but handed the armband over to Dunga midway through after being dropped. He was benched for the final and stayed there, with Dunga the man who lifted the trophy. In a Guardian interview in 2008, Rai reflected: "It wasn't my best moment, but the win was beautiful – Brazil's first for 24 years. It was very important for us as a people."

Kaka believes Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona and warned it is important there is no messy divorce if the Argentina star moves on from Camp Nou.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was incensed by recent comments from sporting director Eric Abidal, who questioned whether some players showed full commitment under former head coach Ernesto Valverde.

A scathing response from Messi bypassed official club channels as he took Abidal to task on Instagram, and that raised the question of whether the record-breaking forward remains happy at Barcelona.

He has spent his entire professional career with the Catalan giants and is by a long distance their all-time leading goalscorer and closing in on Xavi's appearances records.

Yet Kaka, who starred for Milan, Real Madrid and Brazil and also won the 2007 Ballon d'Or, says the day could come when Messi seeks to move on.

It would then behove both parties to ensure the split is conducted in a dignified way, Kaka explained.

Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free transfer at the end of each season.

"I think it's not going to be a problem for him to play in the Premier League, or [to play] at a top club at the top three leagues in the world would be good for him," Kaka told Sky Sports News.

"But of course it depends on what he wants for his career. It's hard to see him playing for another club, but it's just ... [he may feel,] 'It's okay, it's time for me to change and I'll go to have another experience and I'll be the best football player in the world for another team.'

"I think the most important thing is not the broken part but the way this is going to be broken.

"When [Cristiano] Ronaldo left Madrid we were sad that Ronaldo left the club and of course a lot of them regret Ronaldo's left Real Madrid.

"But I think everybody at the time understood that, okay, for him it's another challenge, he needs another challenge, he needs to move, it's okay, we are one of the best clubs in the world and we'll keep going, Real Madrid needs to rebuild.

"It's more the way, if it's going to happen, it's the way that it's going to happen."

Kaka is hoping to move into a football director's role and explained he was fascinated by the Messi saga.

"I'm in this position right now to understand the clubs, the sports director, how to manage a club, how to build a team, and it's a very good situation for me to understand how they're going to handle this, because right now everything's so hot," Kaka said.

"We're going to hear a lot about that, but I'm looking forward to seeing the next step - Messi, [whether] he's going to leave, Abidal, or the club, Barcelona, how they're going to manage this situation will be really nice.

"From outside it's really hard to say something. I don't know if Messi wants to leave or he just wants to protect his players - [and is thinking,] 'As a captain I need to protect my team.'"

Real Madrid lifted the lid on the worst-kept secret in world football on Monday when they confirmed the signing of Flamengo talent Reinier Jesus for a reported €30million.

In completing the long-reported deal, Los Blancos bolstered an already impressive collection of young players on their books, with the club's future planning seemingly second to none in world football.

In Eder Militao, Federico Valverde, Luka Jovic, Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior, Takefusa Kubo, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Martin Odegaard and now Reinier, Madrid boast a remarkable amount of under-23 talent.

Reinier completed his switch the day after his 18th birthday and, while his price tag appears hefty, it actually led to friction within Flamengo – coach Jorge Jesus accusing the club of not being able to value their players, a comment vice-president Marcos Braz subsequently shut down.

Although a regular in transfer gossip columns of late, Reinier remains something of an unknown quantity and a complete rookie given he has played just 15 matches of senior football.

We asked Andy Walker, a Brazilian football analyst and expert for Football Radar, for the lowdown on the latest Brazilian 'wonderkid' to secure a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

What's Reinier's favoured role?

"Reinier is at his best in a No.10 role, but he does like to play slightly more advanced than a traditional '10', staying close to the striker as much as possible," Andy surmised.

It is an area in which Madrid are by no means short, but Reinier also boasts the flexibility to fill in right across the frontline. "He has actually been used as a striker at times by Flamengo as a result," Andy added.

 

What are his greatest attributes?

A Brazilian attacker coveted by Real Madrid – you might be able to guess at a few of his strongest traits, though Andy has also been impressed by Reinier's poise when it matters.

"A quick, direct dribbler who can glide past his man with ease, as well as possessing deceptively good close control and technique," Andy said. "He's also got a real eye for goal, with six goals in 729 minutes of senior football, with his composure really impressive given his very young age."

 

In which areas does he need to improve?

While he is certainly costly, it should not be forgotten Reinier has only just turned 18 and is by no means the finished article. Our expert has reservations over the Flamengo product's physicality and athleticism at the moment.

He said: "He needs to progress physically as we have seen him struggle to keep up the pace in the latter stages when playing a full 90 minutes, but that should all come as he learns the game and adapts to a more rigorous training regime in Europe. As with any young Brazilian, he will need a lot of growth on the tactical side of the game, but his six months under Jorge Jesus will prove a real benefit, rather than playing under some of the archaic Brazilian coaches."

 

Which player could he be comparable to?

Every talented young player from Brazil or Argentina gets labelled as the heir apparent to a previous superstar, and it seems Reinier is no different having drawn comparisons to a former Madrid player.

"The easy comparison to make is with Kaka – or specifically the Milan-era Kaka," Andy suggested, and he is not the only one to make that link. Guilherme Dalla Dea, Reinier's former Brazil Under-17 coach, said similar last year.

"I see him as a '10' – a Rai, a Kaka," he told FIFA. "I see these characteristics in Reiner. He likes getting in the box, scoring goals. He also scores goals from outside the box. I've so much belief in him. He's a kid, a youngster, but he's very level-headed and because of this he's our captain. I firmly believe we'll see him playing at a very high level overseas."

 

How does his potential stack up compared to Rodrygo and Vinicius?

There is no doubt Madrid are backing their own track record of turning raw young talents into the world's best, such has been their investment in under-23 players over the past few years. And the consensus is, Reinier's potential is vast.

"It's difficult to say given Rodrygo and Vinicius were given more time to show their talents in Brazil before moving, but Reinier's talent has been obvious since his very first game and I think the general feeling is that, if all goes well, then he could end up being the best of the lot," Andy observed.

 

Have there been any concerns relating to his mentality?

Talent can only take you so far. As a teenager moving to a new continent, Reinier will surely face mental challenges and those will likely determine whether or not he achieves success – but in terms of professionalism, he is seemingly well set.

"Reinier's team-mates and coaches have all been very positive about his attitude and willingness to learn, so he looks well-placed to make the most of his talents," Andy commented.

Similarly, his coach Jorge Jesus has no worries about that side of the 18-year-old, telling Marca: "I believe a lot in Reinier. I had several talks with him and we talked a lot from the point of view of how he can get better, about his defects, what needs to be corrected. Reinier is a very intelligent kid, he likes to learn and I can say he is a gifted one. I assure you, he is going to mature there. He will arrive in Madrid safe and quiet to do a job, but it is necessary to give him some time."

Real Madrid can overcome their indifferent start to the season and deliver a major trophy, according to Kaka.

After finishing 19 points behind LaLiga winners Barcelona and being eliminated from the Champions League by Ajax in the round of 16 last season, Madrid have won just two of their opening five competitive matches of 2019-20.

Draws against Real Valladolid and Villarreal in LaLiga and a 3-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League have left coach Zinedine Zidane's position under threat at a club where he won three consecutive European titles in his first spell as coach.

Kaka, who won the LaLiga title with Madrid in 2011-12 and the Copa del Rey a season earlier, noted the expectation around Santiago Bernabeu, telling Omnisport: "For Real Madrid, we always have to win something.

"Of course, this is the pressure for Zidane – he needs to win something. LaLiga or the Champions League. These are the two championships that are the most important for the supporters and the club.

"Of course, he knows that. I think Real Madrid as a very good team, very good players and an unbelievable coach.

"Real Madrid is ready to win something this season again."

Madrid's €100million close-season signing Eden Hazard came in for criticism after a disappointing performance at Parc des Princes, where Zidane substituted him after 70 minutes.

However, Kaka believes the Belgium international will thrive in Spanish football.

"He's very good and playing in Spain gives him a little more space than here in England," Kaka said of Hazard.

"He'll have the chance, when he gets used to playing in Spain, he'll be more comfortable and we will see a lot of magic from Hazard as well."

Speculating on whether Hazard can compete with Lionel Messi for the LaLiga limelight in the way that Cristiano Ronaldo did during his spell at Madrid, Kaka added: "I think we were lucky to watch these two players [Messi and Ronaldo] playing in a battle against each other. It was really, really nice.

"Now, we love to see how Real Madrid are going to handle Barcelona, how Real Madrid can win the league again. And, of course, Hazard will be one of the keys for these chances for Real Madrid.

"If they are going to create this rivalry between Hazard and Messi... we will see."

Nicolo Zaniolo wants to fulfil the hopes Roma supporters have of him becoming the new Francesco Totti, even if his boyhood idol was former AC Milan star Kaka.

After scoring four goals in 27 Serie A appearances to help the Giallorossi finish sixth last season, Zaniolo has become an integral part of a squad with ambitions to break back into the top four this term.

The 20-year-old Italy international, who was playing for Virtus Entella in Serie B little over two years ago, is focused on staying grounded amid growing expectations on him at Stadio Olimpico.

"It's important to keep your feet on the ground at all times and I have a family behind me who do that, who understand football and who make sure I work my best at all times," Zaniolo told These Football Times.

"Beyond that, the only way to manage expectations is within myself. I can't listen to what others say, good or bad. I'm not Totti, but one day I hope to be as good.

"My hero undoubtedly was always Kaka, especially during his Milan years and for Brazil. I watched him a lot.

"For me, he was the perfect offensive midfielder: strong, technically perfect and capable of scoring and assisting. That is what I wanted to become as a kid and I still do now."

After impressing during his first season at Roma, Zaniolo signed a new five-year deal at the club amid reported interest in him from Tottenham and Bayern Munich.

The playmaker is competing with the likes of Justin Kluivert, Cengiz Under, Javier Pastore and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a place in the line of three creative players that Roma coach Paulo Fonseca likes to play behind lone striker Edin Dzeko.

Zaniolo said the experience of playing alongside Daniele De Rossi last season helped to keep him humble as he rose to stardom.

"Daniele was always a leader and a fantastic person, so it's easy to learn from him and other experienced players," said Zaniolo. "In fact, if you can't, there's something wrong."

Cristiano Ronaldo made his first competitive appearance for Real Madrid 10 years ago in a 3-2 LaLiga victory against Deportivo La Coruna.

The Portugal forward reached superstar status after being made the world's most expensive player at the time when joining Madrid from Manchester United for a reported €94million.

He went on to become the club's all-time leading scorer and won 15 trophies, including four Champions League crowns and two LaLiga titles, before leaving for Juventus in 2018.

To mark the decade anniversary since it all began for Ronaldo at Madrid, we look back at their team from that day and where they all are 10 years on.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas

Synonymous with the number one shirt at Real Madrid and widely considered one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Casillas brought an end to his 25-year spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2015 by joining Porto. The veteran suffered a heart attack during a training session in May and doubts remain over his future in the game, with an administrative role at Porto likely if he retires.

Right-back: Alvaro Arbeloa

Arbeloa returned to Madrid for a second spell at the club the month after Ronaldo joined and he became a regular at the back for several years before joining West Ham in 2016. The World Cup-winning defender retired after one season at West Ham. He has lived a somewhat low-key retirement, but did briefly coach Mambo FC in 2018, a team formed of freestyle footballers from YouTube.

Centre-back: Ezequiel Garay

Garay's Real Madrid career never managed to take off and he was sold to Benfica in 2011 after falling down the pecking order. He moved to Zenit St Petersburg three years later and is now back in the Spanish top flight with Valencia, where he has featured regularly over the past three seasons.

Hay que seguir luchando,no hay otro camino,los resultados positivos seguro que van a llegar,gracias a la afición por el apoyo de siempre #G24 #amuntvalencia pic.twitter.com/Wo7PVLl97z

— Ezequiel Garay (@Garay_24) February 17, 2019

Centre-back: Raul Albiol

Another player signed the year Ronaldo arrived, Albiol was snapped up from LaLiga counterparts Valencia and played 43 matches in all competitions in his debut campaign. He left for Napoli in 2013 after seeing his playing time gradually reduce, spending six seasons there before returning to Spain with Villarreal in July.

Left-back: Marcelo

One of only two players from this side still at Madrid, Marcelo is now into his 14th season at the club and has been a regular in most of those campaigns. Despite strong links with a move to Juve earlier this year, Marcelo remained at the Santiago Bernabeu and has started both league matches this term.

 

https://t.co/ZW98dzRll2

— Marcelotwelve (@MarceloM12) July 28, 2019

Central midfielder: Lassana Diarra

Diarra made a positive start to his Los Blancos career and later featured 17 times in their title-winning season of 2011-12, but the Frenchman moved to Anzhi Makhachkala in 2012 after playing time decreased. He then spent time with Lokomotiv Moscow, Marseille and Al Jazira, before a surprise move to Paris Saint-Germain in January 2018. He retired in February, though he was an unused substitute once for Belgian side Sporting Charleroi in March.

Central midfielder: Xabi Alonso

Alonso was signed from Liverpool and became the linchpin of Madrid's midfield for five years, winning five major honours, including the Champions League in 2014. He then linked up with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, before bowing out on a high in 2017 after adding five more trophies to his collection. He has since moved into coaching, taking charge of boyhood club Real Sociedad's 'B' team.

Attacking midfielder: Kaka

Kaka arrived at Madrid in June 2009 as a one-time Ballon d'Or winner and was the most expensive player in the world for all of a month, a record that was taken from him by Ronaldo. The Brazilian struggled under Jose Mourinho and returned to AC Milan four years later, with Gareth Bale's arrival pushing him further out of the picture. He was unable to match his previous heights in San Siro and saw out his career in Major League Soccer with Orlando City. Rumours of a return with Silvio Berlusconi-backed Monza failed to materialise.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo got off the mark in his first outing for Madrid with a penalty. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner went on to add a further 450 goals, becoming Madrid's all-time leading goal-scorer. If last year's switch to Juve was surprising, his form for the Old Lady was anything but. He was crowned Serie A's Player of the Year in his debut campaign after guiding Juve to an eighth straight Scudetto with his 21 goals in the league.

Forward: Raul

Club icon Raul was into the latter stages of his Madrid career when Ronaldo arrived, spending just one season alongside him. Ronaldo was handed Raul's number seven shirt when the Spaniard left for Schalke 04 in 2010 and many of his goalscoring records have since fallen to arguably the club's greatest ever player. Raul spent a combined five years with Schalke, Al Sadd and New York Cosmos before moving into coaching with Real Madrid's age-grade and reserve sides.

Forward: Karim Benzema

The other member of this team still at the Santiago Bernabeu, Benzema has managed to see off a succession of strikers to remain Los Blancos' go-to man up top. The Frenchman joined the same year as Ronaldo and formed an impressive partnership with his attacking colleague. He is sixth on the club's list of all-time leading scorers with 224 goals, but is still a long way short of Ronaldo's record.

Substitute: Esteban Granero

Granero started his career with Madrid and returned in 2009 following a spell with neighbours Getafe. He never became first-choice and is now at Espanyol, having also played for QPR and Real Sociedad.

Substitute: Gonzalo Higuain

The Argentine striker was prolific for Madrid and Napoli between 2007 and 2016, before controversially swapping Naples for Turin. After unsuccessful loan spells with AC Milan and Chelsea, he is back with the Old Lady under Maurizio Sarri.

Substitute: Guti

Guti spent 15 years with Madrid and is renowned as one of the most talented players to have come through their academy. He left in 2010 and spent the final year of his career with Besiktas and is now part of their coaching staff, having also previously worked behind the scenes with Madrid.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.