Football

Cristiano Ronaldo: I never saw Lionel Messi as a rival

They defined the "El Clasico" rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona for the past decade, but Cristiano Ronaldo insisted 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 side to a 3-0 win over Messi's Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Both sides had already sealed their last-16 spots before the match, which 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 11 times in the past 12 years.

"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 lying fourth in Serie A.

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."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, meanwhile, blamed their poor start in the opening 25 minutes, which saw Ronald Araujo fouling Ronaldo for Juventus' first penalty and Weston McKennie making it 2-0 with a volley.

He said: "We started badly, we looked scared, we weren't aggressive... we got better but we lost the game in the first half an hour."

Ronaldo scored his second penalty when Clement Lenglet was penalised for handball seven minutes after the restart. - REUTERS

Football