Lionel Messi “is top”, admits Fabio Cannavaro, but Diego Maradona is considered to top his fellow Argentine on any all-time list because the 1986 World Cup winner is “another world”.
Debate regarding which of the South American superstars can be considered the best has raged for several years, and looks set to rumble on for some time yet.
Former Italy international Cannavaro is well placed to pass judgement having played with and against two iconic figures.
A man who skippered the Azzurri to global glory in 2006 was just starting out as a teenager at Napoli when the mercurial presence of Maradona was helping the club to two Serie A titles.
Cannavaro would later take in a spell at La Liga giants Real Madrid, allowing him to lock horns with Barcelona talisman Messi.
Both men are assured of legendary status that will stand the test of time, but a star turn from the past edges out one from the present in the eyes of a defender who once sought to contain such talent.
“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 is not the first to suggest that it is almost impossible to compare two icons from different eras .
Roberto Ayala, another of those to have seen both Messi and Maradona at close quarters in his playing career, recently told Fox Sports when asked to make his pick between the pair: “I played with both of them, with Diego I was taking my first steps. They are two footballing giants, and when he retires, Messi will be remembered.
“I don't know if it’ll be like Diego, it doesn't matter. They are different.
“Diego was pure art in all his mannerisms, Messi a Speedy Gonzalez who carries the ball two centimetres from his foot.”