Legendary Barcelona defender Carles Puyol surprisingly paid Cristiano Ronaldo a huge compliment, by calling the Real Madrid superstar "one of the best players in history". However, the former Nou Camp captain was quick to resume normal service by adding his former teammate Lionel Messi is still the best.

The incident, which​ the Mirror likens the episode to Gary Neville paying tribute to Liverpool, happened while Puyol was speaking to reporters at the U17 World Cup event in India.

The 2010 World Cup winner was quoted as saying that CR7 is 'one of the best players in the history of the game', which is quite the compliment given that bitter underlying rivalry.

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However, Puyol then qualified his admission with the words: "but Messi is better." 

The 39-year-old also acknowledged the rivalry between the two has pushed them to greater success, and expressed his wish that his former teammate finally win silverware for his country.

"The competitiveness and rivalry between them is very intense and I think that has helped to improve them both because neither man relaxes," he said.

"For me, Messi is the best. I have played with him and he has given me so much happiness. He is always improving and has been consistent for 10 years.

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"I hope that he wins something with his country. That would mean that aside from winning with his club, he will have won everything with everyone.

Puyol called time on his playing career in 2014 after making 593 appearances for Barcelona's first team, and won a haul of 21 major trophies during his time as a Catalan, and became captain of the club in 2004 after taking over from current manager, Luis Enrique.

The one-club man is often lauded as one of the finest central defenders of his generation alongside the likes of Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini, and also earned 100 caps for Spain.

His comments, as complementary as they kind of are to Ronaldo, are sure to irk Madrid fans and a large section of the Manchester United faithful, who see the Portuguese as second to none.​