Cristiano Ronaldo said on Wednesday that it is Lionel Messi who has made the Portuguese “a better player” and that the 34-year-old enjoys a “healthy” rivalry with the Argentine great.

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

“I really admire the career he has had and from his side, 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,” he said.

“I have an excellent professional relationship because we have been sharing the same moments for 15 years,” Ronaldo said, adding, “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.”

Recently, the Portuguese football superstar gave hints that he could retire “next year” but also indicated he may continue playing into his 40s.

Ronaldo, who is 34, plies his trade for Italian Serie A champions Juventus. Last year, he helped the club win the Serie A title by individually scoring 28 goals in 43 games in all competitions.

The forward has a record five Champions League titles (four with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United) to his name along with three Premier League crowns, two La Liga trophies, and a Serie A title.

Ronaldo’s contract at Juve runs to 2022, and it would be a surprise if the striker hangs his boots before that.

(With inputs from AFP)