The five-times world champion – who could win a record £555,000 for a sixth world title next month – pinpoints the season-ending rankings of 2004-2005 to get a true reading of green baize greatness.
O'Sullivan was number one in the world at the end of that campaign with Mark Williams, Stephen Hendry, Paul Hunter, John Higgins and Matthew Stevens making up the top six – and all in their potting prime.
World Championship
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In O'Sullivan's opinion, that was as close to snooker utopia as you could wish to see with seven-times world champion Hendry still competing at the top level and Hunter – who tragically died in 2006 after battling cancer – lifting three Masters titles in the early part of the decade.
With Higgins yet to win another three world titles, Williams fresh from lifting the second of his three Crucible trophies and former Masters and UK champion Stevens competing in the second of two world finals, O'Sullivan believes that period should be celebrated as the halcyon days.

John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan at the 2001 World Championship final.

Image credit: Eurosport

"I've always said that snooker enjoyed a golden era when Hendry, Higgins, Williams, Stevens, the great Paul Hunter and myself were battling it out. I truly believe that was the best top six ever," said O'Sullivan.
"For me, getting through Hendry, Higgins and Williams in their prime was almost impossible. To beat two of them was so, so tough. Nobody has made me fight as tough as that trio in their prime. In some way, the players these days go for their shots a lot more.
"They are much more aggressive. They miss a few balls to let you in, and are less focused on safety. The games are much more enjoyable for me these days than years ago when you had several players you didn't really like playing because you knew they could match you.
"A lot of the top players try to win frames at one visit. In some ways, those games are easier to play in. You either get taken out early, or you can feed of it to enjoy the battle."
Watch LIVE coverage of the 2020 World Championship and World Championship qualifiers live on Eurosport and Eurosport Player

World Championship first round draw

  • Judd Trump Eng (1) v Qualifier
  • Yan Bingtao Chn (16) v Qualifier
  • Stephen Maguire Sco (9) v Qualifier
  • Kyren Wilson Eng (8) v Qualifier
  • John Higgins Sco (5) v Qualifier
  • David Gilbert Eng (12) v Qualifier
  • Jack Lisowski Eng (13) v Qualifier
  • Mark Allen NI (4) v Qualifier
  • ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
  • Mark Williams Wal (3) v Qualifier
  • Stuart Bingham Eng (14) v Qualifier
  • Ding Junhui Chn (11) v Qualifier
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan Eng (6) v Qualifier
  • Mark Selby Eng (7) v Qualifier
  • Shaun Murphy Eng (10) v Qualifier
  • Barry Hawkins Eng (15) v Qualifier
  • Neil Robertson Aus (2) v Qualifier
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