Gheorghe Hagi has compared Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – two of the final three contenders for The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award – to two of the greatest tennis players in history.
"They are two players that make my life happy,” the Romania legend told Omnisport of the 29-year-old Argentinian and 31-year-old Portuguese. “We are living [through] an era with two amazing players. One has technical quality and the other has strength. You can have a great body, but it all starts in your mind.
"[Messi]'s very creative, he has a lot of technique and talent – pure talent. Like in tennis, Federer would be Messi and [Novak] Djokovic would be Cristiano Ronaldo."
Federer has won a record 17 Grand Slam singles titles. The 35-year-old Swiss is perennially calm on court, extremely well-rounded and arguably the greatest shot-maker of all time. Djokovic, 29, has already pocketed 12 majors. The Serbian boasts an incomparable return of serve, an exceptional backhand and is considered the best athlete the game has ever seen.
Hagi is astounded by how long Messi and Ronaldo, just like Federer and Djokovic, have been at the top, and puts it down to extraordinary motivation.
"Because he trains, because he heals, always… he wants to win. The difference on the field isn't always the motivation in life. [It is] the player's ambition. What you did yesterday no longer works, today you go [on to] the field and you have to be the best.
"The football players aren't actors. In the movies you make a film and you can watch it 100 times. No, not for the player, each game is different. So you have to be motivated. That's my opinion – the player has to be motivated.
"This is one of the qualities to become one of the best of the world. One of the qualities of Ronaldo, of Messi, of players that achieve that level is that they are motivated."
The Best FIFA Men’s Player will be crowned at The Best FIFA Football Awards™ ceremony in Zurich on 9 January 2017. Frenchman Antoine Griezmann is the remaining contender.