LIONEL Messi says he misses facing rival Cristiano Ronaldo as the former Real Madrid forward gave “prestige” to LaLiga.
After helping Madrid win a fourth Champions League title in five years, Ronaldo left the club to join Serie A giants Juventus in July.
Ronaldo has continued to save his best for Europe’s elite club competition, with a hat-trick against Atletico Madrid firing Juve into the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
The draw subsequently ensured Messi and Ronaldo cannot meet unless both clubs advance to the final, which is set to be played at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano home.
Madrid are lagging 12 points behind LaLiga leaders Barca and Messi suggested he misses the competition provided by Ronaldo.
“I miss Cristiano,” Messi told FM Club 947 in Argentina. “Although it was a bit of a shock to see him raise trophies, he gave LaLiga prestige.
“Juventus are a great candidate to win the Champions League since the arrival of Cristiano, and the match against Atleti must have given them a lot of confidence.”
Messi and Ronaldo are widely considered to be two of the greatest players to have ever played the game.
But the Barcelona captain feels team-mate Luis Suarez should be considered among the best of the rest.
“I don’t want to forget anyone, but I think that Neymar, [Kylian] Mbappe, [Eden] Hazard, Luis Suarez and [Sergio] Aguero are the best,” Messi added.
“I didn’t mention Cristiano because I put him aside from the list with me.”
Aguero was a surprise omission from the latest Argentina squad as Messi made his return after a nine-month absence following the World Cup.
Manchester City’s all-time leading goalscorer has fired 18 Premier League strikes this season and Messi indicated he feels the forward should be a more regular international selection.
Messi continued: “Kun [Aguero] has told me on many occasions, ‘I’m Leo’s friend and am a substitute’. If it was up to me, Kun would always be a starter.
“I turn up to games and always endeavour to do my best irrespective of the comments that are made behind my back.
“At times it can be difficult to enjoy all that goes on with the national team set-up. I just try and focus on playing well.”