Ronaldo on Messi: ‘I never saw him as a rival’

Football

Cristiano Ronaldo said he has always got on well with Lionel Messi and never saw him as a rival after scoring twice in Juventus‘ 3-0 win over Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Ronaldo, 35, scored two penalties as the Italian champions ended Barca’s 38-game unbeaten run at home in Europe to reach the last 16 as group winners. Barca progress as runners-up.

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It was the first meeting between Ronaldo and Messi in over two years, since the Portuguese forward left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018.

“I have always had a cordial relationship with Messi,” Ronaldo told Movistar after the game. “As I have said before, for 12, 13, 14 years [I have been] sharing prizes with him.

“I never saw him as a rival. He always tried the best for his team and I tried the best for mine. I always got on well with him. I am sure he will say the same if you ask him.

“But we know in football people always look for a rivalry to create more excitement.”

Messi, 33, and Ronaldo, who have the Ballon d’Or between them in 11 of the last 12 years, came to define the Clasico rivalry between Barca and Real Madrid over the last decade.

However, both find themselves in the latter stages of their careers now and their respective sides have made below-par starts to their league campaigns domestically.

Ronaldo said he hoped the win would provide an “injection of confidence” for a Juve team that are currently fourth in Serie A.

Barca could also do with some confidence. The defeat to Juve came on the back of Saturday’s loss to Cadiz in La Liga, but despite the Catalan side’s troubles, Ronaldo doesn’t think Messi — who had all seven of Barca’s shots on target on Tuesday — is in decline.

“Messi is the same as ever [on the pitch],” he added. “Barcelona are in a difficult moment but they are still Barca. I am sure they will come out of it. All teams have bad runs, but Barcelona are a very good team.”

Meanwhile, Barca forward Antoine Griezmann was critical of his side’s performance as they were well beaten by Juve.

In between Ronaldo’s penalties, United States international Weston McKennie was also on target, with a fourth goal, scored by Leonardo Bonucci, ruled out for offside by the VAR late on.

“We didn’t turn up,” Griezmann lamented. “They turned us over in the first half. We were lacking in every department: attitude, desire to run, to defend… everything was bad.

“Who’s to blame if not those of us who are out there playing? We know how to run, how to work hard, and that’s what we must do to move forward.

“I don’t want to look for excuses. We have to leave that to one side and work hard, there’s nothing else for it. There’s a game on Sunday [against Levante] and we have to win it. The image [of the team] tonight was ugly.”

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