Ruud: Messi on different level

Ruud van Nistelrooy has selected his team of 2012, reserving special praise for Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao and Lionel Messi in particular.

UEFA are asking former professional footballers to select their starting XIs of the past 12 months, in anticipation of January’s announcement of the public vote for the best team of 2012.

Former Real Madrid and Malaga forward Van Nistelrooy has selected a number of La Liga-based stars in his line-up.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid CF)
“World champion, European champion, captain of Real Madrid and Spain: what more needs to be said?”

Defender: Philipp Lahm (Bayern Munich)
“A player I like a lot. He is the captain of Bayern Munich and has spent many years performing at the highest level with the German national team. As a player, he is consistent; as a person, really pleasant. Technically, he is very good.”

Defender: Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain)
“I saw him at Milan and he is the complete player. He is strong, quick and controls the ball very well. He is doing the same things now at Paris Saint-Germain and, what's more, has really earned his stripes because I have even seen him with the captain's armband. He is an excellent centre-back.”

Defender: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid CF)
“A central defender who stands out for his pace and strength. He knows how to play his way out from the back.”

Defender: Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
“He has made spectacular progress since his time with Valencia to play for the national team and Barcelona. It looks as if he has been playing at this level all his life. He is great in attack and fulfils his defensive duties well.”

Midfielder: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
“I played against him for Hamburg while he was with Borussia Monchengladbach. He is a very technical player who can move around the entire pitch. He is very dangerous, with and without the ball. He knows how to complete his own moves and can score goals. He is a complete player, technical and really nice to watch.”

Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona)
“He is a spectacular player. Every team in the world would want him because of the way he is, because of the way he behaves on and off the pitch. He is a clean player with a great touch and never loses the ball. He has great vision. He is an example in every aspect of the game.”

Midfielder: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
“He can in no way be left out of this XI. He is like Xavi, Ramos, Lahm or Casillas, a player who has been playing at the highest level for years. He has won the biggest trophies and he is still playing and enjoying his football. You can see a love for the game with players like that. With the way he plays, all you can do is tip your hat to him.”

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
“There is no one else like Cristiano Ronaldo. What he has done at Manchester United and Real Madrid is spectacular. The amount of goals he scores every year and he's not even a striker. He is a wide player who can also play inside. He has speed and can score with his head, either foot, from penalties and free-kicks, while also giving assists. He is spectacular.”

Forward: Falcao (Club Atletico)
“I used to be a No 9 and can tell you that you don't see the likes of Falcao much these days. I see him as a natural striker and the reference point of his team. He fights, runs, holds up the ball and scores all types of goals. He can head well and shoot with both feet. He is a real predator in the area and has demonstrated that with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Colombia.”

Forward: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
“He is the last to appear on this list, but he should be the first. There are no words for what he is doing. He is on a different level. He plays his game, scores one or two goals and heads home making his performance seem easy. The fact he is doing what he is year after year says that he is the best of all time.”

Tags Casillas Falcao Iniesta Messi Ramos Ronaldo Van Nistelrooy Xavi