Stephen Ireland was unimpressed with playing Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after viral comments about Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes
Former Manchester City star Stephen Ireland insists neither Lionel Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo were the best he played against.
The former Republic of Ireland international has come under fire after suggesting the likes of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have never gotten the better of him.
In a TikTok that went viral, Ireland said: “Steven Gerrard, for example, Frank Lampard. Every time I’ve played against them, I’ve always gotten the better of them.
“They are great players, Paul Scholes another, but I never thought I was overwhelmed.”
It caused a huge backlash on social media, but the 36-year-old took to talkSPORT to clarify his comments, insisting some of the big names haven’t played their best against him.
And that included Messi and Ronaldo, often referred to as the two greatest players of all time, who faced Ireland at Manchester City.
Speaking to talkSPORT Drive with Andy Goldstein and Darren Bent, his old friend in Aston Villa, Ireland said: “I wish I was (as good as Lampard and Gerrard). I would like to have half of their career, to be honest.
“As a footballer, and other players will remember, you are asked who is the best player you have played against.
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“Your experience is different from that of a fan because I played for Manchester City in a pre-season friendly against Barcelona.
“Lionel Messi played, he wasn’t good. We won the game. I can’t say Messi is the best player I’ve played against because my experience in that match was that he was not not good.
“My point was that even though these guys are amazing and legends of the game, and rightly so, when I played against them personally, I never walked into the locker room afterwards and thought ‘wow, they were amazing, they handed my a*** to me’.
“I always thought I competed pretty well with them at the time. Of course, on a career, you can’t compare. It’s night and day.
“I played against Cristiano Ronaldo four or five times for Manchester City against Manchester United and we won every game we played against him.
“So it’s very difficult for me to say that Ronaldo is the best player I’ve played against. I can only come out of their performance on the day against me.
“That’s why I said Cesc Fabregas. Every time I played against him, very good. Eden Hazard, very, very good. So that’s my opinion based on that question.
Speaking on the show, Bent highlighted a moment Ireland even got the better of Lampard in Aston Villa’s 3-1 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 2011.
“I know Stephen Ireland very well. One of the best trainers I have ever seen. He was phenomenal,” Bent told Goldstein earlier on the show.
“He had an ability that made me go ‘oh my God’, when I got to Villa he wasn’t really playing.
“Maybe it was Fabian Delph who said to me ‘look at this guy’ and I walked in and I remember thinking, ‘how does this guy not play every week?’
“I remember that game in particular he had the best of Lampard, we went down to Stamford Bridge. We beat them 3-1, he was phenomenal.
“He scored one and set up two. He was fantastic. So on this particular occasion he got the better of Frank Lampard.
When asked who was the best he had ever faced, Ireland admitted former Chelsea star Hazard impressed him the most.
Ireland added: “I think Hazard is the first name that comes to mind. Wayne Rooney was ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
“Rooney just had this aura around him where you looked at him and he was glowing.
“I played against Thierry Henry at Highbury and it was the same, that aura around him, the larger than life character and talent.
“But for me, Hazard is the first name that comes to mind.”
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