Gareth Bale Ranks Cristiano Ronaldo over Lionel Messi Before Madrid vs Barcelona

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

Real's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, celebrates with Real's Gareth Bale after scoring during a Champions League round of 16, second leg, soccer match between Real Madrid and Schalke 04 at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Tuesday March 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul White)
Paul White/Associated Press

Gareth Bale believes Cristiano Ronaldo is "an example to everyone," hailing his Real Madrid teammate as "the best" ahead of March 23's El Clasico showdown with Barcelona.

Speaking to the press, per Barbara Jimenez of Real Madrid's official website, Bale appeared in confident fashion ahead of the crucial La Liga tie:

Cristiano's the best in the world, he is spectacular and an example to everyone.

We're playing well, with a lot of confidence and we're on a good run. Now we have to prepare really well for the next match against Barcelona.

Barcelona is a direct rival and we are going to try and put in a good performance and take the three points. They have very good players, but we are focused on our game and on our team because we also have very good players.

Bale is expected to take a leading role during a match that is sure to be billed as Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi.

As ever, La Liga's two biggest stars will have a major say in the result, especially considering both have posted a string of excellent performances recently. Oddly, OptaJose suggests we shouldn't expect both players to score:

Ronaldo has scored 38 goals and provided 10 assists in 31 games across the Spanish top flight and Champions League this season, per This includes nine strikes in his last six matches heading into the Bernabeu fixture with Barcelona.

Messi has posted 26 goals in 26 matches during an injury-hit campaign. His three-goal haul during the recent 7-0 thrashing of Osasuna provided the perfect preparation for La Blaugrana's trip into the capital, as Gerardo Martino's men know a loss will seriously dampen their chances of landing the La Liga crown.

Barca are currently four points behind Real, and trail Atletico Madrid by one, as we head toward the climax of an exciting season.

Bale's suggestion that Ronaldo should be an idol for all may be reinforced by statistical prowess—and indeed, this year's Ballon d'Or—but his dominance won't be complete without the domestic title.

Both he and Messi are capable of changing the trophy's destination with a moment of skill. Bale's input has galvanised Madrid's attack this season, his 14 goals and 14 assists in 27 appearances proving extremely useful alongside the powerful forward play of Karim Benzema.

MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 18:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates with teammate Gareth Bale after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg match between Real Madrid and FC Schalke 04 at Estadio Santiago
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Madrid have lost just one game at home all campaign, September's 1-0 defeat to Atletico, and will be confident of avenging November's 2-1 away loss at the Camp Nou. It's clear the players believe in each other, highlighted by Bale's comments, and have nothing to fear in front of their own fans.

While the Welshman was never going to suggest his superstar teammate pales in comparison to Messi, the upcoming fixture provides Ronaldo with the perfect opportunity to underline Bale's sense of confidence with a match-winning display.