Jamie Carragher reveals his top five opponents including Lionel Messi and John Terry but NO Cristiano Ronaldo
JAMIE CARRAGHER has named his top five toughest opponents ever – with Lionel Messi making the cut but Cristiano Ronaldo snubbed.
The former Liverpool and England star went toe-to-toe with some of football's best-ever players.
Having played for 16 years, Carragher took on the finest the Premier League and Champions League had to offer in his 737 career games.
And now Carragher, who also won 38 England caps, has told talkSPORT who he believes to be the five best he has faced.
We take a look at who he named – and why – in reverse order…
5. PAOLO MALDINI
THE AC Milan legend is an all-time great – with Carragher actually taking him on in two separate Champions League finals.
Looking back at the first – the Miracle of Istanbul in 2005 – Carra said: “I played against him in the Champions League final.
"I’ll never forget before the game he did an interview and he actually mentioned me in it.
"I was like ‘oh my god, Maldini knows who I am’.
“I’ve actually got his shirt from that final. They left everything in the dressing room, they left their medals, shirts, everything.
“We had a lot of young lads who came on the trip and they just went in and raided the dressing room!”
Maldini played over 1,000 times in his career – with 902 appearances for Milan and 126 Italy caps, winning six Serie A titles.
4. JOHN TERRY
IF not for Terry, Carragher might have earned more England caps.
And Carra reckons JT was the best Premier League defender of their era.
He said: “For me he was the best centre back of the Premier League era. He was my type of player.
"He was basically a better version of me to be honest.
“I think his football ability is massively underrated. He was a great player.
"When I was going through my list I didn’t have an English player and I wanted to get someone in there and I thought I’d go for John Terry as I couldn’t get Stevie [Gerrard] in!"
On his style of play, Carragher continued: “He could switch the ball 40-50 yards on his left foot.
"I always felt it was John Terry who was the defender and Rio Ferdinand was the footballer…
"But Rio was a much better defender than he was given credit for and I think John Terry was a much better footballer than he was given credit for.”
Terry played 717 times for Chelsea, winning five Premier League titles.
JT also racked up 78 international caps for England.
DESPITE sharing his career at Liverpool with Steven Gerrard, Carragher has admitted Xavi is the best midfielder ever.
He said: “I think he’s the greatest midfielder I can think of. If you said to me pick your best midfielder I’d go for Xavi.
“He was player of the tournament in World Cups and European Championship when Spain dominated, just like what Barcelona did domestically.
"Stevie and him were completely different players and you see what he did for us [Liverpool].
“What I would always say is Stevie got goals and all that, but what Stevie did for Liverpool, him and all of us couldn’t then take it on to a World Cup stage [with England].
“Xavi’s game at Barcelona was completely different and was about keeping the ball and keeping the team playing.
“No-one could stop him doing what he did, you couldn’t stop Xavi running a game – it was impossible.
“He did that in World Cup finals what he did every week for Barcelona, so he played his part – in what his game was – at every level of football.”
Xavi played 767 times for Barcelona, winning eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.
He also earned 133 Spain caps, winning the 2010 World Cup and two European Championships in a four-year span.
2. LIONEL MESSI
CARRAGHER plumped for Messi over Ronaldo in his top five, calling the Barcelona star a 'god'.
On picking the Argentinian legend, the ex-Reds ace said: “He’s got to be in there.
"I played against him when he was a young lad and he certainly wasn’t the Messi of the Pep [Guardola] era.
“But we [Liverpool] played against the Barcelona team, who were reigning European champions, in 2006.
"Messi was on the right wing, Ronaldinho was on the left wing and Samuel Eto’o was upfront. It was some front three!
“We beat them at the Nou Camp 2-1 and we lost at home 1-0 – Eidur Gudjohnsen scored – but we went through on the away goal.
“He’s just an absolute god and there’s no way I couldn’t put him in my top five.”
Messi has played 741 times for Barcelona – and counting – scoring 640 times, while winning TEN LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns.
He has also earned 140 caps for Argentina.
1. THIERRY HENRY
ARSENAL used to give Carragher nightmares in the late 1990s and early 2000s, thanks in no small part to Henry.
On his old rival, Carra said: “Everyone guessed this one.
"I think most people would agree with me in saying he’s the greatest player to ever play in the Premier League.
“That Arsenal team, of that era, I still say was the best team I ever played against – even when I’m thinking of the Milan, Madrid and Barcelona sides I faced.
“Possibly they [Arsenal and Henry] underachieved in terms of never winning the Champions League."
Carragher continued: “He was fantastic and definitely the toughest player I ever came up against.
"I think he was the best player in the world for a year or two around that era with Arsenal.”
Henry scored 226 goals for Arsenal in just 370 games – winning two league titles, including the 2003-04 Invincibles campaign – before moving to Barcelona.
The forward enjoyed two more league crowns in Spain – and also won the 1998 World Cup on home soil with France.
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