Barcelona star Lionel Messi has praised Cristiano Ronaldo's form for club and country, expressing delight that his rival secured his presence at the 2014 World Cup earlier this week.
Ronaldo was in sensational form, scoring four goals over two legs to ensure Portugal's victory over Sweden and progression to next year's finals in Brazil.
Lionel Messi revealed he was 'very happy' for Cristiano Ronaldo after watching him fire Portugal to the World Cup: http://t.co/jjScKzh4ao— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) November 21, 2013
Messi and Ronaldo are always pitted as great rivals for individual honours. However, per ESPN, the Argentina forward told Kicker:
I was very happy for him when he scored those goals. It's just great when the best teams compete in Brazil, and Cristiano has had a great scoring rate for many years now. He plays at an outstanding level.
I don't know if this is Cristiano's best moment, but he is always there, scoring goals in all the games and playing his part for his club and his country. He has been like that for many years. Whether he is at his best, or a bit below that, there is almost no difference.
After Ronaldo's goals this week and the extension of FIFA's voting deadline, the Telegraph's Mark Ogden reports that the Portuguese star is now favourite to win the Ballon d'Or title this year for the first time since 2008.
A success would end a run of four consecutive Messi triumphs, with the Argentine having suffered injury concerns this year. It would also restart the endless debate into which player is better.
Messi is of course right that the World Cup needs the presence of both players, with the duo having performed to sensational levels for over five years now.
Very different in style, as clumsily alluded to by FIFA president Sepp Blatter last month—detailed by ESPN FC—the pair have been relentless in their excellence and are deservedly hailed among the best ever.
In the same interview with Kicker, Messi also had kind words for another adversary in Arsenal's Mesut Ozil:
Germany have a great team loaded with many young players at a high level. I especially like Mesut Ozil - although, of course, that does not mean I want him on my team.
Ozil moved from Real Madrid to Premier League side Arsenal this summer and has been important in seeing the Gunners rise to the top of the English league over the early stages of the season.
Who should win the 2013 Ballon d'Or?
Germany will be a major contender at next summer's World Cup, putting Messi and Ozil back in direct competition once more.
The Argentine may be careful in his choice of words in order to prevent unnecessary headlines. However, there is no doubting that he would prefer to play with Ozil than against him.
What is great for the sport of football is that it is currently blessed with a number of extraordinary talents, all of whom offer distinct sets of strengths and weaknesses.
The World Cup is often viewed as the ultimate testing ground, and each of Messi, Ronaldo and Ozil has yet to lift the famous trophy.