Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Lionel Messi over Diego Maradona in the argument over which Argentina legend is the greater footballer.
It is a question long debated by football fans and it has resurfaced following the death of sports writer Hugh McIlvanney, a great in his own field, with Jonathan Northcroft reporting an exchange that he witnessed between McIlvanney and Graeme Souness, the Liverpool legend and Sky Sports pundit.
'An exasperated Souness had to finally beseech: "Look, I played against Maradona five times and I'm telling you - Messi".
'Hugh growled back: "I don't care who you played against. It's Diego".
Ferguson was told of this debate, and agreed with former foe Souness over his friend McIlvanney, who co-wrote his 1999 autobiography Managing My Life.
'I would side with Souness on that one, Maradona's career at the very top was only a few years,' Ferguson said.
The cases for each are well-known.
Maradona's career saw him win league titles at Boca Juniors and Napoli, who he transformed from Serie A strugglers to UEFA Cup champions. He also shone in two years at Barcelona but his greatest achievements came on the biggest stage, where he dragged Argentina to World Cup glory almost single-handedly in 1986, and nearly repeated the trick four years later, losing in the final. He was named FIFA's Player of the Century in 2000.
Messi has never shone at the World Cup, despite reaching the final in 2014, and his lack of international trophies is the only black mark against his name – he has also lost three Copa America finals. His club career has been quite incredible, however. He has won four Champions Leagues and nine La Liga titles during 15 years at Barcelona, his only club, scoring a barely believable 577 goals in 661 games. He has won the Ballon d'Or five times.