Fabio Cannavaro discussed his love for Andres Iniesta, saying he watched the former Barcelona midfielder over Lionel Messi.
Iniesta, now playing for J-League outfit Vissel Kobe, celebrated his 36th birthday on Monday.
The former Spain international left Barcelona in 2018 after a trophy-laden stint with the La Liga giants.
Cannavaro, who won two La Liga titles as a Real Madrid player, said he always had eyes on Iniesta, widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of all-time.
"He played with such style, you couldn't help but love him when you saw him play," the Italian told AS.
"He was a perfect professional, very humble ... I loved him.
"Everybody might have been watching Messi but I was watching Iniesta."
Cannavaro has previously compared Messi to another Argentine legend Diego Maradona - insisting the latter was in 'another world'.
The Juventus defender however believes it is hard to compare top players from different generations.
"I respect Messi a lot," Cannavaro told Sky Sports .
"For the new generation he is one of the best.
"But Maradona is different because the football was different. They kicked him a lot but he was always in control and he was tough.
"Messi is top but Maradona is another world. I never compare him with other players. I never saw Pele but I watched Maradona, for seven years I saw every game.
"He's not one of the best, he's the best."
Cannavaro also aired his opinion on PSG superstar Kylian Mbappe - a player tipped to be the top of his generation like Messi.
He feels Mbappe can make the move to Real Madrid to emulate the incredible standing Cristiano Ronaldo achieved at the Bernabeu.
"Real Madrid need players like Mbappe, a young star who could follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo," the Guangzhou Evergrande coach told AS.
"It's normal that Madrid want to sign him but it also has to be taken into account that PSG's owners don't need the money. They are ambitious and they want to win the Champions League.
"I think it will be difficult for Madrid to get him. The president of PSG is a person who wants to win, I know them well and they will fight tooth and nail to keep Mbappe."