Pique: Messi more naturally talented than Ronaldo

Ahead of Monday’s Ballon d’Or trio reveal, the Barcelona defender has complimented the effort his former Manchester United team-mate puts in to keep pace with the Argentine

As the Ballon d’Or race hots up, Gerard Pique has stated that Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi is more naturally talented than Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

The duo have collectively won the past six awards, with Messi’s four triumphs sandwiched in between Ronaldo’s accolade for his 2008 performances and last year’s success.

As a result both are favourites and battlelines are being drawn, with Uefa president Michel Platini publicly chastised by Real Madrid on Friday for suggesting a German – and not Ronaldo – deserved to win the Ballon d’Or following the nation’s World Cup victory.

In response, Luis Enrique goaded the European champions by insisting that the new La Liga and Champions League top goalscorer of all-time has been the best player of 2014.

Pique, however, did not outright stress his belief that Messi has had a superior 12 months to his former Manchester United colleague.

Instead, the Camp Nou centre-back praised Ronaldo for the effort he has put in to stay at the same standard as someone as gifted as his current Argentina team-mate.

“Messi is more of a natural talent,” he told Voetbal Magazine. “He’s not as obsessed with training. It is not a matter of who’s better but of perception.

“I admire the mental strength shown by Cristiano after Messi won the Ballon d’Or four times. I was pleased for him that he had won in 2013.

“It’s not only just the talent though. Behind Messi there is a lot of work, he’s a formidable force with a very powerful engine that makes him tick. Cristiano is more physical than Messi, yes, but if you lack the physical ability, nothing works.”

On Monday the final trio of Ballon d’Or candidates will be announced ahead of January 12’s Ballon d’Or ceremony.