Barcelona legend Lionel Messi has admitted that he misses playing against former Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, who left the Spanish La Liga last year for Serie A champions Juventus in Italy.
He added that the league was worse off since the departure of Ronaldo, whom Messi said he did not know personally but had always shared “a good vibe” whenever their paths crossed during a match or at an awards ceremony, Efe news reported.
During an interview with Fox Sports Radio in Argentina, the Barcelona star was asked about his relationship with Ronaldo and whether his absence was felt in La Liga after the Portuguese forward switched clubs.
“Yes, it was nice (when he was there), it made Madrid more important, stronger. I said at the start of the season that obviously Madrid was going to feel Cristiano’s absence,” said the player from Rosario.
“A player like Cristiano would be missed by any team; a player that scores 50 goals a season for you,” he added, stressing that Ronaldo was missed in “the whole league” as it made the competition more relevant.
In the same vein, Messi revealed that his rivalry with the Portuguese for their respective teams helped both players continue improving and wanting to push their boundaries.
The Argentine also said that he shared a very good relationship with former Barcelona teammate and Brazilian star Neymar, and that the two of them shared a WhatsApp group along with Luis Suarez of Uruguay, who also plays for the Spanish giants.
Among his former teammates at Barcelona, he admitted to missing Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, and “everyone from that period.”
“The style of play that we had, how we approached every match…We would go knowing we were going to win,” he said.
However, he said that to repeat the achievements of that period, a lot of things would be required to be put in place, and praised his then-coach Pep Guardiola, who managed the Catalan club between 2007 and 2012.
“An amazing coach who had the right players for that idea, that philosophy. Pep continued doing the same, one continues to see what Pep’s teams are like, but he never matched what we did in Barcelona with equally amazing players; he was at Bayern (Munich) and is now at (Manchester) City, but they never became what we were,” Messi underlined.
“Because we had amazing players: Xavi, Iniesta, (Sergio) Busquets, a midfield that had 90 per cent of the ball (possession),” he added.
About the Copa America starting in Brazil on June 14, Messi said the atmosphere in the Argentina team was very good, and that he wanted to end his career having won something with the national squad, of which he was the captain.
When asked about the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022, the Argentinian forward said he was not sure if he would be a part of it.
“Today I feel spectacular, physically very good, but I’m 32 and I don’t know if I’m going to continue. A lot can happen between now and the World Cup. I hope that I don’t have any serious injury and Í feel good physically and can continue,” he said.
When asked about his retirement plans, Messi confessed that he hoped to prolong his career as much as possible.
“I am a little fearful of what will happen after that. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have nothing in mind. I love this game since I was a kid. I love playing football. I’ve always had a life related to football. To be at home and not know what to do… that is tough,” Messi said.