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15 Jan, 2020 10:40

Messi: My rivalry with Ronaldo 'will be remembered forever'

Messi: My rivalry with Ronaldo 'will be remembered forever'

Lionel Messi says his La Liga duels with Cristiano Ronaldo will remain in people’s minds “forever,” as the Barcelona star reflected on his battles with the Portuguese forward when he was playing at Real Madrid.

Messi and Ronaldo shared a stage in Spain while the latter was at Real Madrid between 2009 and 2018, pushing each other to ever-greater goalscoring heights and spawning a seemingly endless debate about which of the pair is the generation's best. 

Argentine ace Messi, who edged one ahead of Ronaldo in the Ballon d’Or stakes by picking up his sixth accolade at the end of last year, said the fact that the Portuguese was playing on the opposing team in the El Clasico encounters made them all the more special for him and the fans.

"It was a special duel [with Ronaldo] and it will remain forever, because it lasted for many years and it is not easy to maintain such levels for a long time,” Messi told La Liga’s show on DAZN, Goal reported.

“Plus, the teams we played in were also very demanding, both Real Madrid and Barca, the two best teams in the world.

"Competing on an equal footing for so many years, I think it will remain forever.”

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Ronaldo, 34, struck an incredible 450 goals in 438 appearances for Los Blancos, before moving on to a new challenge with Juventus in Serie A. Messi is on 619 goals in 707 games for the Blaugrana and counting.

The duo faced off directly in El Clasico 30 times, with Messi and Barcelona having the clear edge, winning 14 of those games to eight for Ronaldo and Real Madrid. Messi scored 20 times in those fixtures, while Ronaldo found he net eight times.  

Messi: My rivalry with Ronaldo 'will be remembered forever'

Messi, 32, said his battle with Ronaldo was “fun” for football fans.

“The sporting duel between us was very nice on a personal levelm and I think people had fun too, whether they were fans of Madrid or Barca, or even only football fans in general," the Barca skipper said.

"Obviously, when Cristiano was at Real Madrid, the matches were always special. The matches against Real always mean a lot, but when Cristiano was there they became much more special. 

"But it's a time that has passed now, that we have experienced. Now, we have to look ahead to the future."

For Messi, Tuesday was the first day working under new Barcelona boss Quique Setien, after he replaced Ernesto Valverde.

The pair will aim to steer Barcelona towards a third successive La Liga title, although the table is tight as the Catalans stand at the summit ahead of Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid only by virtue of goal difference.

They will also target a first Champions League title since 2015, and meet Napoli in the last 16 at the end of February.

Quique Setien: The chess-mad Cruyff disciple charged with bringing Barcelona back to the summit of European football

Things are similarly tight for Ronaldo and Juventus, as they lie just two points ahead of Inter Milan at the top of Serie A. In the Champions League they face French side Lyon in the last 16.

Ronaldo has hit the ground running in 2020, scoring four goals in two game so far this year.

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