It's the usual suspects leading the world's best forwards in 2018, but did Lionel Messi really have a better 2018 than Cristiano Ronaldo?

Real Madrid's Luka Modric insists that although Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are exceptional talents, his Ballon d'Or win was for those players like Xavi who missed out because of their domination of the trophy.

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno says Messi is too good to not deem Barcelona's trio of strikers the fiercest in all of Europe.

Former Brazil forward Pele has stated that Diego Maradona was a "much better player" than Lionel Messi -- adding that Barcelona No. 10 "only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn't head the ball well."

No one has won the Ballon d'Or on more occasions than Messi, who has five, but only finished fifth in the voting for the same honour in 2018 -- and was voted as ESPN FC's best forward..

But Pele said he rates the 1986 World Cup winner -- as well as two other former players -- higher than Messi.

"As far as I'm concerned, Maradona was one of the best players ever," Pele, a three-time World Cup winner with Brazil, said to Folha de Sao Paulo. "If you ask me: 'Was he better than Messi?' Yes, he was. Much better.

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"[Franz] Beckenbauer, [Johan] Cruyff are also better. They're also excellent players."

Pele, meanwhile, said no one should try to compare him with Messi, suggesting their skillset was completely different.

"How can you make a comparison between a guy who heads the ball well, shoots with the left, shoots with the right and another who only shoots with one leg, only has one skill and doesn't head the ball well?" the 78-year-old said. "How can you compare?

"To compare with Pele, it has to be someone who shoots well with the left, shoots well with the right, and scores headers."

Pele also said fellow Brazilian Neymar is a "better player" than France's World Cup winner, Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, Neymar's teammate at Paris Saint-Germain, finished fourth in the Ballon d'Or voting and took home the best young player award.

"Everyone talks more about Mbappe in Europe but I think Neymar is a better player," he said.

Pele has said Diego Maradona is a 'much, much better' player than Lionel Messi.

Pele, however, was critical of Neymar, who has been reprimanded for his antics and has a reputation for diving.

"It is difficult to defend Neymar for all the things he does outside of football," Pele said. "I talked to him, I told him that in football, he's got it. He had bad luck because the [Brazil] team didn't win the World Cup and he was branded.

"I was with him twice in Europe. We talked and I told him: 'In football, God gave you a gift, but what you did is what made it difficult.'"

Source: espn.co.uk

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