An avid football fan, India cricket captain Virat Kohli, not for the first time, has heaped praise on Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, saying the football icon inspires him.

Kohli, who is arguably the best batsman of his generation, felt that Ronaldo’s “unmatched” work ethic and commitment towards the game separates him from the rest.

“For me, Cristiano is above everyone else. His commitment and work ethic is unmatched. He wants it that bad - you can see it every game. I support every club at which he plays. He inspires me,” Kohli told adding that Ronaldo has had a better career than Messi .

Ronaldo and Kohli have defied fitness scales to not just set new standards for themselves but also set benchmarks for those around.

While comparisons between Ronaldo and rival Lionel Messi have been endless, the India captain felt that Juventus forward had a better football career because he took up more challenges.

“In my opinion Ronaldo has taken on more challenges and succeeded at all of them. He’s the most complete player I have seen and his work ethic is unmatched. He inspires people. I don’t think many people do that. He’s also a leader and I love that. He has amazing belief too,” he said.

Kohli further divulged that growing up, he enjoyed watching Messi, Brazilian greats Ronaldo Nazario de Lima and Ronaldinho, former German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn, Luka Modric and the Spanish World Cup-winning duo of Andres Iniesta and Xavi.

The 30-year-old, who is placed seventh on ESPN’s World Fame 100 this year, revealed that his favourite football memories include watching the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

“Brazil was amazing to watch in 1998 and 2002. I saw Ronaldo - ‘The Phenomenon’, play and was totally blown away by his skill and ability on the ball. One of the greatest ever.

“I like watching Portugal play now because they are maximising their resources along with having a legend in their team. They play with passion and belief, so I like watching them. Otherwise, in terms of pure ability and impact, France are very, very strong,” Kohli said.

Lauding the efforts of Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri, Kohli said he was very optimistic about India’s chances of qualifying for the Fifa World Cup in future.

“We are not far off. We have improved drastically in our football over the last three-four years. With new talent coming in to make the difference, and our skipper Sunil Chhetri leading the team with his amazing composure and inspiration...

“If anyone deserves it [to play in the World Cup], it’s him. And the team should rally behind that motivation and qualify, and dedicate it to him. He’s an absolute champion and an inspirational human being,” he added.

(with PTI inputs)