The duo have been the standout players in world football for the majority of the past decade and when Ronaldo moved to Barca’s bitter enemies in 2009, discussions over who is the finer footballer ramped up significantly.
But Messi, speaking to Argentinian newspaper El Grafico (h/t Sport) stated there’s nothing complex about the rivalry.
“There's never been anything other than respect [between us],” he said. “We are professionals that defend our sides, and we're rivals in the game, but nothing more than that.”
At the moment, Messi’s Barca definitely have the edge over Ronaldo’s Real. The Blaugrana not only clinched five trophies in 2015, but they’re well placed to achieve more success in 2016; Luis Enrique’s side are five points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand and are in the final of the Copa del Rey too.
While Barcelona have been dominant as of late over their great rivals, Ronaldo has continued to excel alongside Messi, as we can see here courtesy of Squawka Football:
Most La Liga goals since 2012/13:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 1, 2016
Cristiano Ronaldo (135)
Lionel Messi (133)
Antoine Griezmann (62)
Karim Benzema (62)
Aritz Aduriz (62)
In the past you could have accused Barca of being too reliant on their No. 10, with the side not quite able to cope with his absence in the past. But now, with Luis Suarez and Neymar alongside him up front, the 28-year-old doesn’t have to shoulder quite as much of the attacking responsibility.
“We're tied together by bonds of friendship that goes beyond the game,” Messi said of his fellow forwards to El Grafico, per David Amoyal translating for GianlucaDiMarzio.com.
As the UEFA Champions League’s official Twitter feed notes here, since Suarez joined the club last summer, the goalscoring feats of the three prongs of this remarkable trident have been sensational:
Suárez (41), Messi (27) & Neymar (23) have now scored 91 goals for Barcelona in 2015/16. Last season? 122 goals ... pic.twitter.com/jbCcqX9Z7X— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) February 22, 2016
When Messi does eventually don the Blaugrana shirt for the final time, it’ll be a sad day for all associated with the club, and he’ll be able to look back on a stellar legacy, even if he was to depart tomorrow.
The forward also offered an insight into what his plans are for the twilight of his career.
“I'm thinking about finishing my career in Argentina,” he revealed, per Amoyal. “No doubt I'd love it, but I don't know if or when it might happen.”
Messi also touched upon his desire to win a title with his country, having come so close at the previous two major tournaments, losing in the final of the 2014 World Cup against Germany and in the Copa America final against Chile last summer.
Indeed, it seems as though the Barcelona star isn’t concerned about beating Gabriel Batistuta’s Albiceleste goalscoring record.
“I would rather win something with the national team, even if it was from an own goal,” said Messi, who with 49 international goals, trails the former Argentina forward by seven, per Sport. “I'm not interested in the records, although they are there, but this doesn't make you win titles.”
It’s set to be another significant year for Messi. For Barcelona it seems inevitable he will add to what is already a rich legacy and continue to cement his status as the finest player of this generation ahead of Ronaldo, although that personal battle doesn’t look to play too much on his mind.
What will be intriguing is to see whether Messi can sample success on the international stage. Granted, it’s not solely up to the national team skipper to fire this side to glory, but if he can be the driving force behind a major tournament success for Argentina—their first piece of silverware in 23 years—then many would consider the forward as the greatest of all time.