"To me the last true great was (France playmaker Zinedine) Zidane. He stayed at the same very high level for at least 10 years," Pele, who was awarded a honorary Ballon d'Or, told France Football magazine on Tuesday.
Ronaldo is on the right path, though, and reminded the three-times World Cup winner of former Portugal striker Eusebio, the top scorer at the 1966 World Cup, who died earlier this month at the age of 71.
"Today Messi and Ronaldo are above the rest. Ronaldo reminds me a bit of Eusebio, he is well bred. He has the elegance and the creativity of the great players," Pele said.
Winning the World Cup used to have greater significance in the voting for the Ballon d'Or but the success of Ronaldo and Messi, who won the award from 2009-12, proved that was no longer true, according to the Brazilian.
"It is perhaps less important than it used to be when I was playing," Pele of the showpiece tournament that the duo will look to win for the first time later this year.
"I'm not saying it is not essential to win the World Cup but the Champions League now has the same considerable impact celebrity-wise."