Ferdinand believes Maradona had to do more as an individual than the current Barcelona star.
He told manutd.com: "As a kid Maradona was my hero. I had all the video tapes. Now you'd have to say Messi's up there, although I'd still have Maradona as my number one. At Napoli, Maradona took a team that was mediocre, at best, and made them champions of Italy.
"He did something similar with Argentina in 1986 and won the World Cup. The only argument against Messi is that he's in a team that also possesses arguably the second and third best players in the world in Xavi and Andres Iniesta (although Cristiano Ronaldo is right up there, too). Messi gets a bit more help. Even after Xavi and Iniesta you've got Sergio Busquets and David Villa, players who would get into any other team in the world.
"The one other thing I'd say about Maradona is that you have to remember he did the business in an era when you could kick lumps out of people. Nowadays the players are protected a lot more."