Higgins has now claimed another triumph over his old rival after he was named the greatest player of all time as part of a study by the University of Limerick.
The project, led by Joseph D O’Brien, examined close to 48,000 results between 1968 and 2020 before concluding that Higgins stands head and shoulders above the rest.
A complex algorithm weighted results based on the individual quality of opponents and the head-to-head records of leading players.
Higgins was named at the top of the all-time list ahead of O’Sullivan in second place, with Mark Williams and Stephen Hendry occupying third and fourth respectively.
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“I’m truly flattered,” said Higgins. “But I have to admit I have not won enough of the big titles consistently to be regarded as the greatest of all time.
“If I had to give the accolade to anyone it would have to be my rival for so many years…Ronnie!”
Higgins has claimed four World Championship titles over the course of his professional career, while O’Sullivan boasts six, one short of seven-time winner Hendry.
He took on long-time friend Matthew Selt at the Gibraltar Open but was defeated in an anticlimactic return to the table.
O’Sullivan issued his own verdict on the ‘GOAT’ debate last year, suggesting that Hendry could also be considered as the best to have ever played the game.
“If I’m not the greatest player that’s ever played the game, then there’s probably only one other player who can claim that mantle, and that would be Stephen Hendry,” he told Yahoo.
“I’ve got nothing to prove as a snooker player and for me it’s about just having fun, enjoying the game and enjoying being at the tournaments.
“And enjoying knowing that if I did put my head down and played a full schedule, I probably would be still one of the best players and as dominant as anyone could be dominant in their sport.”