“I was about to turn 17. We were both called up [to the Argentina U-20s] for some friendlies. We were at the AFA training complex. I got sat at the table with him, [Ezequiel] Garay and [Lautaro] Formica. I was sat beside him. I looked at him but I didn’t know who he was. They were talking about some football boots. Then Leo sad, ‘They’re from the USA’. So I started thinking, ‘Where’s this guy from?’ I couldn’t resist and I asked him, ‘What’s your name?’ He said ‘Leo’ and I asked, ‘And what’s your surname?’ He said ‘Messi’ but it didn’t mean anything to me. I asked him again to see if it sounded familiar, and he again said ‘Messi’. He laughed and then we all laughed. Later I was thinking and I remembered that there was this kid everyone was talking about, who arrived at Barcelona when he was 12. That’s when I realised it must be him!”
Sergio Aguero on how he met Lionel Messi

“How good was Puskas? He would be better than anyone you would consider great. Almost incomparable. I played against him in Glasgow and Madrid. He was a quick and fit as anyone on the pitch. He would play a pass, then he’d be gone, on the end of what would be called a one-two, or running into space to join up another attack. Pictures can be misleading, eh? Those that think he couldn’t run or move, trust me, it was like chasing ghosts. World class, legend, all-time great. You could put Puskas in any of those categories. Just like you could put him in any team from any generation.”
Willie Henderson, the former Rangers star, on Ferenc Puskas

“Diego is the best player [in history]. Personally I put him ahead of Pele. Pele never played abroad, except in America, which wasn’t as competitive. Maradona played brilliantly at Barcelona and especially at Napoli. He electrified, he got the entire city bouncing. He was incredible on the ball, [had] fantastic control. He was just an unbelievable figure, a player of the very highest calibre.”
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

“I worked from eight in the morning to four in the afternoon as a film-maker, and then from 5pm to 8pm I devoted my time to football. My weekends were obviously taken up with matches and the little free time I had available to me. I’d take my computer with me to away games so I could edit my films. All the same, I’m relieved that my life is not as hectic now and I’m pleased that I’ve chosen football. I always thought I was a better director than a footballer, but I started to think differently when I joined up with the national team.”
Hannes Halldorsson, the Iceland goalkeeper, to FIFA.com

"Blind people will have decided who wins the award if Neuer doesn't get the Ballon d'Or this year. He was crowned world champion. He is the most perfect goalkeeper in the world. He is great with crosses, always alert rushing off his line, and has great reflexes. He can do anything. There is nothing I can criticise him for."
Sepp Maier

“There is no doubt that Van Gaal’s record on the continent is fantastic, but perhaps he hasn’t appreciated that the Premier League is a different ball game. Moyes was treated very harshly at United, and this season is proving that. Van Gaal has spent a fortune in the transfer market and yet, despite having a worse record than Moyes at this stage, there is no clamour for his head. He has made too many changes, too quickly. Big-money additions should be the finished article, and that is not what we are seeing. Angel Di Maria should be the best player in the Premier League, but he’s only impressed in glimpses. And as for Falcao, well he’d get injured on A Question of Sport (television show).”
Tommy Docherty on two of his successors as Manchester United manager

"It's great to be recognised and I'm proud to be on the shortlist, but it's never been an obsession for me and it never will be, because what I care about are team trophies. I don't like comparing myself to others, but you are talking about two monsters! They have succeeded beyond reality for half a dozen years. They are above everyone else."
Arjen Robben on being nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’Or and comparisons to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo

"I saw him in the room and I remember thinking, 'I have to speak to him', but I needed to pick the right moment. I didn’t want to be rude. There was a moment where he was walking towards me as I was heading to the bathroom and I said, “Sir Alex, sorry to interrupt but I just wanted to say ‘Hi’. He was great. We actually spoke for probably three-to-five minutes. It may not seem very long, but we engaged in an actual conversation and he was genuinely interested in my footballing career. It was unbelievable. After the conversation, I had to go into the bathroom, have a moment and calm down. I looked into the mirror and said to myself, ‘Did that really just happen?'”
Lianne Sanderson, England women’s international

“Talisca has become the darling of Portugal and some people call him 'Yaya Talisca'. He does have excellent technique [like Toure], but he’s more like Rivaldo, who was also left-footed, with a long stride and capable of scoring goals from distance.”
Newton Mota, the former Bahia co-ordinator credited with discovering the Benfica starlet

“Ronaldo is a worthy heir to Di Stefano. Cristiano is one of a kind, as Di Stefano was. He is the Di Stefano of this century. He scores such great goals. He is already among the best players in history.”
Francisco Gento