When Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus last summer the transfer not only saw Real Madrid lose one of their greatest ever players but it also meant the end of his La Liga rivalry with Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.
After nine seasons of going head-to-head in Spain Ronaldo is now plying his trade in Italy’s Serie A while Messi continues to score the goals for La Liga leaders Barca. On Saturday Messi scored his 40th and 41st goals of the season as Barcelona beat Espanyol 2-0 in the Catalan derby at the Camp Nou.
Although currently injured Ronaldo’s first season in Italy has seen him score 24 goals for Juventus. The Italian champions are 15 points clear at the top of Serie A and also through to the Champions League quarter-finals.
It’s this form and influence that makes Messi miss playing against his great rival. In an interview with Club 947FM radio, Messi said: “It was nice playing against Cristiano even if it was difficult. I enjoyed winning cups when he was at Madrid. It would be nice if he were still there.”
Signing Ronaldo from Real Madrid has made Juventus even better, says Messi, and the Barca No.10 believes the Italian side will be a huge threat in the Champions League. Ronaldo scored a second-leg hat-trick for Juventus as they came back to beat Atletico Madrid 3-2 on aggregate in the last 16.
Juventus play Ajax in the last eight and Barcelona play Manchester United. Should Juve and Barca win their quarter-final and semi-final ties Ronaldo and Messi would face each other in the final on 1 June at the Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain.
Messi added: “I have a lot of respect for Juventus; I think they are a very strong team, with very good players – and with the arrival of Cristiano, even more so. With the victory against Atletico Madrid they’ve got a big advantage. But I hope we can be there too.”
Top two in the world
Messi was also asked about which players he regards as the best in the world. While praising Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Luis Suarez and Eden Hazard, Messi believes he and Ronaldo are leading the way.
“Today, there are very good players, Neymar, Mbappe, Suarez, Hazard, any of them could be the best in the world,” he said. “But I took Cristiano off that group and put him with me.”