Football

Cristiano Ronaldo says Lionel Messi made him a better player

Juventus forward says healthy rivalry, though not unique, spurred them

Cristiano Ronaldo admitted on Wednesday his long-time rivalry with Lionel Messi has made him "a better player" and that he enjoys a "healthy" rivalry with the Argentinian great.

PARMA JUVENTUS

However, Ronaldo, whose influence at Real Madrid mirrored that of Messi at Barcelona before he left for Juventus, revealed that the pair have never socialised together.

"I really admire the career he has had and he has already talked of the disappointment when I left Spain because it was a rivalry that he appreciated," Ronaldo told TVI in Portugal.

"It's a good rivalry, but it's not unique - Michael Jordan had rivalries in basketball, there was Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in Formula 1. The thing they all had in common is that they were healthy rivalries."

Ronaldo and Messi have won the coveted Ballon d'Or five times each, a factor that helps each player flourish.

"I have no doubt that Messi has made me a better player and vice-versa. When I am winning trophies, it must sting him and it's the same for me when he wins," the Portuguese star said.

"I have an excellent professional relationship because we have been sharing the same moments for 15 years.

"We've never had dinner together, but I don't see why we can't in the future. I don't see a problem with that."

As for the immediate future, Ronaldo will have his eyes on winning more silverware as the Serie A kicks off this weekend.

Juve, now coached by Maurizio Sarri, travel to Parma tomorrow, as Ronaldo looks to build on a fruitful first season in Italy.

The Portugal forward scored 28 goals in 43 appearances in all competitions, helping the Turin giants to their eighth consecutive Serie A title and the Supercoppa Italiana.

ANELKA BACKS RONALDO

Former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka believes that Ronaldo will "score many more goals" this season, having had a year of Serie A experience behind him.

"Ronaldo will do better than last year," Anelka, 40, told Tutto Juve.

"He immediately adapted to Italian football and did very well with Juventus. This year, he will be even stronger and I have no doubts about this, without injuries and suspensions, he will score many more goals."

Juventus signed Ronaldo from Real Madrid for 100 million euros (S$154m) last year in a bid to attain European glory, with their last Champions league triumph coming in 1996.

Last season, the Italian champions were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but Anelka is convinced that the Turin side can mount a serious challenge with the squad they have assembled, Goal.com reported.

Juve have added Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and the highly rated defender Matthijs de Ligt, among others.

"Juve have signed quality players and have been very clever in their recruitment strategy," the Frenchman said.

"The new arrivals will take a few months to adapt to the new football before demonstrating all their qualities."

Football