Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has reiterated that the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo is a severe blow for his defending Premier League champions.
The Portugal international joined Real Madrid this summer in a world-record deal as his former boss finally decided to sell in a long-running transfer saga.
Ferguson is well aware that Ronaldo's departure is a major loss and he has paid a glowing tribute to the ex-United ace.
"Cristiano is a massive loss," said the Red Devils chief. "I have nothing but praise for the boy. He is easily the best player in the world.
"He is better than Kaka and better than (Lionel) Messi. He is streets ahead of them all.
"His contribution as a goal threat is unbelievable. His stats are incredible. Strikes at goal, attempts on goal, raids into the penalty box, headers. It is all there. Absolutely astounding."
Ferguson has also dismissed money-rich Manchester City and their newly-acquired host of stars, such as Emmanuel Adebayor and former Old Trafford hero Carlos Tevez, as a major threat to United's domestic title.
"Given all that has happened in the transfer market this summer, it is a different type of challenge we are facing," he said. "We are being challenged for the back pages.
"Manchester City are getting all the back page stories and they will hold that position for the rest of the season because there is a lot of interest in what they have done and a lot of speculation about whether it is going to work.
"But I cannot look at Manchester City as our main competitors. Liverpool and Chelsea are our main competitors. There is no doubt about that.
"It won't be easy for them (City) to win anything, even with all the players they have bought.
"They have bought a lot of high-profile players but they have 10 strikers. That is a hell of a lot.
"I have not spoken to all the managers but the one or two I have are saying 'Who are they going to leave out'?
"How do you tell players they are not even going to be travelling to London? How does he pick a team? We are all interested."