Jose Mourinho says Brazil icon Ronaldo is the best player he has ever seen.

The Portuguese was assistant coach to Bobby Robson during the striker's stunning 1996-97 season with Barcelona when he scored 47 goals in 49 appearances across all competitions.

Ronaldo went on to enjoy goal-laden spells at Inter and Real Madrid and fired Brazil to a fifth World Cup triumph in 2002 before hanging up his boots in 2011. 

Mourinho coached Cristiano Ronaldo for three years at Madrid and has watched Barca forward Lionel Messi throughout his career, with the two players considered to be among the greatest of all time.

But while conceding the pair have sustained their brilliance over longer periods, Mourinho - who has been out of a job since his departure from Manchester United in December - says no-one can touch Ronaldo for pure "talent and skill".

When asked by LiveScore who the best player he had seen was, Mourinho said: "Ronaldo.

"Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have had longer careers; they have remained at the top every day for 15 years. However, if we are talking strictly about talent and skill, nobody surpasses Ronaldo.

"When he was at Barcelona with Bobby Robson, I realised that he was the best player I'd ever seen take to the field. Injuries killed a career that could have been even more incredible, but the talent that that 19-year-old boy had was something incredible.

"In 1997, Barcelona played against PSG in Rotterdam and Ronaldo's goal, 1-0. Awesome."

Barcelona officially opened the new Johan Cruyff Stadium, which will host games for Barca B and their women's teams.

The new 6,000-seater stadium – located at the club's training ground in the suburbs of the city – pays tribute to the legendary Cruyff, who played for the Blaugrana between 1973 and 1978 before coaching them between 1988 and 1996.

Cruyff died in 2016 and is widely credited with laying the foundations for the unprecedented success the club has enjoyed over the past 15 years. 

Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets were among the Barca stars in attendance at the opening, which hosted a friendly between the club's Under-19s and a youth side from another of Cruyff's former teams, Ajax.

The opening followed on from Monday's unveiling of a Cruyff statue outside Camp Nou.

Antoine Griezmann felt Barcelona stepped up in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez to get their first LaLiga win of the season against Real Betis on Sunday.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid got off the mark for his new club in the 41st minute to cancel out Nabil Fekir's opener, before adding a wonderful second to put Ernesto Valverde's side ahead five minutes after the interval.

The hosts went on to win 5-2 and banish the disappointment of last week's opening defeat to Athletic Bilbao, and Griezmann, while admitting there is still plenty of work to be done, says he was impressed by how Barca coped without injured duo Messi and Suarez.

"We have improved a lot and we still have details to improve, although this is going in the right direction," he told Movistar.

"In the end, when many important people are missing, everyone takes a step forward and today it has been like that.

"After a defeat there are many comments and we had to work hard this week and in the end we played a great game. We have enjoyed it."

Carles Perez, Jordi Alba and Arutro Vidal were also on target for Barca before Loren Moron added a superb consolation late on for the visitors.

Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde says Lionel Messi has to be 100 per cent fit if he is to feature against Real Betis on Sunday.

The 32-year-old missed the whole of Barca's pre-season programme with a calf injury and was not part of their squad for their opening LaLiga loss to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

Messi – whose last competitive outing was for Argentina in the Copa America third-place play-off victory over Chile, a match in which he was controversially sent off – returned to training on Wednesday, but Valverde is unsure whether he will be fit for the visit of Betis.

Speaking at his pre-match media conference, Valverde said: "If he is not 100 per cent, he will not play."

If Messi does feature, he will likely line up alongside Antoine Griezmann in attack.

The €120million signing from Atletico Madrid struggled to make an impact in last weekend's disappointing defeat, with Luis Suarez's first-half injury leaving him isolated up front.

Valverde says he is improving all the time and expects the France forward to start firing soon if he is given the right service.

"He is better every day," the Barca boss said. "He has to participate a lot and last week he did not participate as we would have liked. 

"If he participates, he can be decisive, but we must help him."

Betis also opened their LaLiga campaign with a defeat last weekend – a 2-1 reverse to Real Valladolid – but Valverde is expecting a tough game at Camp Nou.

He added: "Betis are a team that have many options to allow them to be towards the top of the standings, but it is mandatory that we get all three points after losing last weekend."

Lionel Messi is not in the Barcelona squad for the first game of their LaLiga title defence.

Barca go to Athletic Bilbao on Friday to open the 2019-20 season but they will be without their inspirational captain.

Messi has not featured during pre-season due to a calf injury and he was not present in the open section of Barca's training session on Thursday.

Ahead of the workout, former Athletic head coach Valverde had suggested Messi would not be able to take his place in the squad.

"We're not going to take risks with players and certainly not with him," Valverde told a news conference ahead of his return to San Mames.

"He's not trained with the team since they came back and it's different to train in isolation. We'll wait a little to see how his recovery goes, it's going well I understand, but we have to wait and see."

Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic are included in the travelling squad despite reports they could leave Barca as part of a deal with Paris Saint-Germain for the potential return of Neymar.

Antoine Griezmann is in line to make his league debut for Barcelona after joining from Atletico Madrid, with fellow new arrivals Frenkie de Jong and Junior Firpo also included, but midfielder Arthur misses out.

Ernesto Valverde says he will not risk Lionel Messi for Barcelona's LaLiga opener.

Messi has not featured in pre-season as he continues to recover from a calf injury.

Frenkie de Jong and Jean-Clair Todibo have returned to training ahead of the new season, but Messi was not with his team-mates on Thursday having worked separately with the fitness coach earlier in the week.

Defending champions Barca go to Valverde's former club Athletic Bilbao on Friday, though captain Messi may sit the game out as he builds his fitness.

"We're not going to take risks with players and certainly not with him," Valverde told a news conference.

"He's not trained with the team since they came back and it's different to train in isolation.

"We'll wait a little to see how his recovery goes, it's going well I understand, but we have to wait and see."

Despite winning back-to-back titles since leaving Athletic for Barca two years ago, Valverde's comparatively poor European record, coupled with his style of play, has drawn criticism.

"Everybody has this target, we want the best we can," Valverde said on his ambitions for the 2019-20 campaign. "In the big games you want to raise your level but you're always thinking about playing better.

"The question is how. Do you want me to look like George Clooney? That's difficult. The most beautiful football is difficult too, but we try to be the best team with the best football and we are steadily improving.

"We had some excellent games last season, some not so good, but if I look back over my two years we've lost four league games, I think, mostly when we've already won the title, so I think we're doing a lot of things right."

Valverde accepted it will be a difficult occasion facing his old club Athletic, where he spent four years in charge.

"It's my home and San Mames is special for me," Valverde said. "Personally it's hard to go and play there, I like these games to be over as quick as possible.

"I know how the fans get behind them and how they put you under a lot of pressure. But you can put a lot of pressure on yourself as well."

Lionel Messi, Neymar and World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe are among the final players named on the 30-man Ballon d'Or shortlist. 

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