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Ronaldo’s petty jab at his biggest rival

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo sticks his tongue out during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS
Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo sticks his tongue out during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Portugal and Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / YURI CORTEZ / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS

ON a night he created football history while knocking Morocco out of the World Cup with his head, it was Cristiano Ronaldo's face - or more specifically his beard - which caught the eye first.

In a wonderfully petty move which we fully endorse if it is as it seems, Ronaldo continued his playful attack on chief rival Lionel Messi as the debate over who is football's greatest player continues to dominate discussion in Russia.

The Argentine began the back-and-forth by posing in a photograph with a goat in a cheeky promotion by Adidas.

Ronaldo appeared to respond by stroking his chin after scoring three times in Portugal's opener against Spain in a move many took to mean he was suggesting he's the GOAT.

And the conspiracy theorists were at it again as the Real Madrid striker entered Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday sporting a freshly-grown goatee.

Ronaldo stamped himself as the greatest international goal scorer in European history with a fourth minute header that was decisive in Portugal's 1-0 win against the Moroccans.

His 85th goal for Portugal broke a tie with Hungary great Ferenc Puskas as the most ever for a European national team. Only Ali Daei of Iran, who scored 109 international goals, is ahead of Ronaldo in the world list.

But is he the GOAT? It depends who you ask.

"Ronaldo and Messi are definitely the best players of all time - however I can't split them," Fox Sports commentator and former Socceroos star Archie Thompson told news.com.au.

"They are completely different. Ronaldo is great one on one and in open space, whereas Messi is fantastic in the tight areas - he magically finds ways to get out of situations. They both win matches and they win trophies. They have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Having that composure is a skill and they both have it in abundance - they never seem overawed."

But former England striker and BBC pundit Gary Lineker was in no doubt Messi was superior.

"You could argue that Ronaldo is the greater goal scorer even though their numbers are similar, but there is no contest when it comes to who is the best footballer. Ronaldo is prolific, Messi is joyous," Lineker tweeted.

Other prominent Australian football voices polled by news.com.au still ranked the duo behind legends Diego Maradona and Pele.

Mark Schwarzer, the former Australian goalkeeper working as an analyst for Optus Sports during the World Cup, valued Pele's three World Cup trophies.

"He has won three World Cups, and pretty much won them on his own, and scored over 1000 goals as well," Schwarzer said.

Fellow Optus Sports commentator Michael Bridges agreed. "I never saw Pele play but he single-handedly won the World Cup for his nation on a regular basis. His goal record at club and international level speaks for itself. If I had to pick Messi or Ronaldo, I would say Messi because he is a far better team player."

"Maradona is the best," Fox Sports commentator and EPL winner Robbie Slater said. "He's the only player in the history of the World Cup to win it virtually on his own in Mexico 1986. He went to Napoli in Serie A and won everything with a club who had never won the Italian league before and since he's left they have never won it again. Both Ronaldo and Messi are fantastic footballers but to be on the same level as Maradona and Pele they must win a World Cup."

This tournament could prove decisive.

Topics:  christiano ronaldo football lionel messi russia 2018 world cup 2018