LIONEL MESSI and Cristiano Ronaldo both hailed Wayne Rooney’s career and talent before his retirement.
The Manchester United and England record goalscorer, 35, hung up his boots after a stellar 19-year career.
Cristiano Ronaldo hailed his former team-mate Wayne Rooney for his talent, mentality and careerCredit: Getty Images – Getty
He has now been appointed permanent Derby manager after a successful caretaker spell at Pride Park.
Rooney won 16 trophies with Manchester United including five Premier Leagues, Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and three League Cups.
But it was his raw talent that saw him burst on to the scene as a teenager at Everton before earning his big-money move to Old Trafford.
And with 11 Ballons d’Or between them, Ronaldo and Messi certainly know how to recognise greatness.
Ronaldo and Rooney were team-mates under Sir Alex Ferguson at United, winning three league titles in a row together.
Speaking in 2015, the Portuguese star told Goalhanger: “For me the power of Wayne Rooney is his mentality and strength.
“He never stops, he always runs, helps the team. He’s a fantastic team player and he scores goals.
“He scored important goals, for me he’s fantastic. He was the kid of England. Everyone loved him. He is a fantastic boy, fantastic player.
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“I used to call him, between me and my mates, the pitbull. I remember when he lost the ball he was so powerful, a strong guy, he shoots unbelievable.”
Ronaldo added that he ‘misses playing with him’ and hoped to one day take to the field alongside the former England captain again.
Messi, meanwhile, came up against Rooney three times.
The England legend earned one draw – a 0-0 in the first leg of the 2008 Champions League semi-finals – but lost both the finals against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
Argentine hero Messi added on Rooney in an interview with Coach Magazine: “Over the years we have faced many British teams in Europe and come up against many good players.
“But I have always had a big respect for Wayne Rooney.
“He has played at the highest level for many years and is one of the special players of the generation.”
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Lionel Messi labelled Rooney as a ‘special player’ with the pair locking horns on three occasionsCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd
Rooney signed a two-and-a-half-year contract to become the permanent Derby bossCredit: Reuters