Antonio Conte lauded Cristiano Ronaldo as one of the four greatest players in history following Manchester United’s hat-trick victory over Tottenham.
Ronaldo, 37, defied his age for the umpteenth time this season to lead the Red Devils to win at Old Trafford.
The hat-trick was the 49th of his professional career, and it brought the Portuguese striker’s season total to 12 goals in 24 Premier League appearances.
It also brings his total for club and country to 807 goals, more than any other player in history.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has long been considered one of the two greatest players of his generation, along with Argentine rival Lionel Messi, but Conte believes he has earned his position on football’s Mount Rushmore.
“It was a wonderful performance by Cristiano, but I know him very well, and it’s not a surprise to me,” Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino said after the final whistle.
“We’re talking about a player who, along with Messi, is the best player in the world right now, along with Maradona and Pele [historically].
“We’re talking about a guy who is decisive and who is always present when the team needs him.”
Conte continued to heap praise on Ronaldo, citing his incredible return of six goals in five games in this season’s Champions League group stage.
“I remember very well the Champions League group for Manchester United, and he was decisive in getting us to the next round,” the Italian remarked of Ronaldo.
“He’s the type of player who enjoys this style of game. We didn’t find him tonight. A fantastic complement to him, because to arrive at this age with this form, mentality, and drive to win, you must lavish all great comments on your opponent.”
In a motivational message to his colleagues, Ronaldo turned to Instagram after the game to say that United is capable of defeating “any team on any given day.”
He penned: “I’m overjoyed with my first hat-trick since returning to Old Trafford! Nothing surpasses the exhilaration of getting back on the field and contributing to the team’s success through goals and effort.
“We’ve demonstrated once again that we can beat any squad on any given day if we work hard and stand as one. Man, united, knows no bounds! Whatever the case may be! Devils, let’s go!”
Ronaldo will look to add to his 18 goals for the season when Manchester United visit Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 contest, which was drawn 1-1 in the Spanish capital.