Phil Neville: Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest of all-time

Phil Neville: Cristiano Ronaldo is the greatest of all-time

Phil Neville has labelled his former Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo as the “greatest of all-time” after the forward scored a hat-trick against Spain last night.

In a heavily contested opening Group B match between Spain and Portugal in the World Cup, Ronaldo netted an emphatic hat-trick as his side drew 3-3.

In doing so, Ronaldo became the first player to score three goals in a single match against La Roja during a World Cup finals, while he now sits joint-second as the all-time leading goalscorer at international level – behind only Ali Daei of Iran.

After his exploits at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, many lauded the 33-year-old as one of the greatest footballers ever, but former teammate Phil Neville went a step further.

Speaking during the half-time interval between France and Australia, Neville told the BBC: “I think for Portugal he plays more for the team than he does for Real Madrid and I don’t think he has lost any of his pace.

“There was period about two minutes just before he took the free-kick where he was blowing his lips, he was breathing in, and he was concentrating. That was no accident that free kick.

“That was just someone who is probably the greatest player of all-time. I know there have been many great players, but for me he is the greatest because he produces moments even at 33 that proves he is the best.”

Ronaldo bagged his 51st career hat-trick for club and country, though incredibly, last night was the first time he has scored three goals in a single match and his side have not come out as the eventual winners.

The 33-year-old has now produced his best return during a World Cup finals, as he only managed to net once during his previous three tournaments.

There was also huge speculation last night that Ronaldo took a direct swipe at fierce Ballon d’Or rival Lionel Messi, when the forward rubbed his chin during his celebration of Portugal’s opening goal.

A recent Adidas advertising campaign depicted a bold Lionel Messi standing above a goat; leading to suggestions that Ronaldo was implying that he is the greatest of all time – or GOAT – during his antics last night.

Portugal face Morocco on Wednesday before concluding their group matches against Iran on June 25.