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'He could score a hat-trick for Stockport County' - Ferguson on why Ronaldo edges Messi

Cristiano Ronaldo has the edge on Lionel Messi because he "could play for Stockport County and score a hat-trick", Alex Ferguson believes.

The debate over which of the Real Madrid and Barcelona superstars is a better player has raged for many years, with the pair enjoying a duopoly on the Ballon d'Or since 2008.

While Messi has won five Ballons d'Or to Ronaldo's three in that period, many of the Portugal star's supporters insist he is a more complete player than his Argentina rival. 

And it would seem that legendary Manchester United boss Ferguson, who managed Ronaldo at Old Trafford between 2003 and 2009, agrees.

Speaking at an event with Rory McIlroy in Dublin, Ferguson said: "It's interesting to me that we hear so much about two players these days: Ronaldo and Messi.

"Now don't get me wrong, Messi is a fantastic player, it's like he's wearing slippers when he controls the ball. But here, for me, is the difference: Messi is a Barcelona player, but Ronaldo could play for Stockport County and score a hat-trick.

"He has everything. He can shoot with both feet, head the ball, he's as brave as a lion, and here's something else people overlook.

"During my time at Manchester United I was lucky enough to have a lot of people who put in countless extra hours to get better. Gary Neville turned himself from an average footballer into a wonderful one because of his work ethic, as did David Beckham.

"But Ronaldo used to completely exhaust himself, and still does. He just wanted to be the best in the world."