Robin van Persie has claimed Stoke City away from home were his toughest opponents in football – insisting the Premier League was a harder test than the Champions League.

After years of wondering if Barcelona playmaker Lionel Messi could do it on cold winter’s night in Stoke, Van Persie has suggested he would have found the going tough.

The former Manchester United and Arsenal forward – who has just committed to another year with Dutch giants Feyenoord – has astonishingly claimed Tony Pulis’ side produced a painful test during his 11 years in the Premier League.

“I’ve had pain, for years, but pain is to be expected at certain levels. Football at the highest level isn’t without sacrifice,” said the 34-year-old striker speaking to the Dutch media.

“Playing in the Premier League for years takes its toll. That is football at the highest level, so bad that I experienced Champions League matches as friendlies.

“Suddenly you have two, three metres to control a ball, without being “chopped up”.

“Well, against Swansea away, something like that was impossible. Those kind of teams didn’t allow me even a metre,” commented the 102-times capped forward.

“Or Stoke City, with the wind whistling through the stadium. I was always in the starting XI, and always it was a battle.

“Stoke City away was the toughest match of the whole world. Games like that do you in fact more worse than good.”