They defined the ‘El Clasico’ rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona for the past decade but Cristiano Ronaldo said he has always got on well with Lionel Messi and never saw him as a rival. Ronaldo, now playing for Juventus, scored two penalties to help the Italian champions secure a 3-0 win over Messi’s Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday.
It was the first meeting between Ronaldo and Messi since the Portuguese forward left Real Madrid for Juventus in 2018. Between them the pair have won the Ballon d’Or in 11 of the past 12 years. Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus lost 2-0 at home against Barcelona in October without Ronaldo, sidelined with Covid-19, but were greatly improved and earned the first Champions League away win against Barcelona since Bayern Munich triumphed in 2013.
Both sides, tied on 15 points, were assured of qualification before kick-off, but Juve’s three-goal victory handed them a superior head-to-head record.
“I have always had a cordial relationship with Messi,” Ronaldo told Movistar. “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.”
Ronaldo is hoping the win could provide an “injection of confidence” for Juventus, who are currently fourth in the Italian Serie A standings. Barcelona are also looking to recover from a below-par start to their domestic league campaign.
“Messi is the same as ever (on the pitch),” Ronaldo said. “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.”
A constant thorn in the Catalans’ side while in Spain with Real, the 35-year-old Ronaldo scored two penalties to take his goal tally against Barca to an extraordinary 20 in 31 games. It was not just his goal-scoring contribution that caught the eye. From the off, he looked much quicker than the Barca backline despite their significant age gap.
His game was perhaps best summed up when, into the final 10 minutes with his team comfortably leading, Ronaldo tracked back and dispossessed Messi inside the Juve box before leading the charge on a counter-attack.
The Argentine fought valiantly in what always looked to be a losing battle but at times he appeared alone in a disjointed attack. He tested Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon a number of times from distance but never looked like finding the back of the net on a night that very much belonged to his old foe.
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