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Cristiano Ronaldo Names Lionel Messi His Most Admired Rival, Talks 'Haters'

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 27, 2016

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 18: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Real Madrid CF and Legia Warszawa at Bernabeu on October 18, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo has hailed Lionel Messi as the opposition player he most admires and played down the rivalry between him and the Barcelona star. 

He also credited his "haters" with pushing him on to achieve greatness. 

The Real Madrid superstar is the strong favourite to win the 2016 Ballon d'Or—the nominees were announced earlier this week—having won the UEFA Champions League with Los Blancos and Euro 2016 with Portugal.

B/R Football @brfootball

The Ballon d'Or nominees are set: Who ya got? https://t.co/ZShMkmQGAb

If Ronaldo wins the gong for a fourth time, he will succeed Messi as the holder and extend the duo's stranglehold on the prestigious award to nine consecutive years.

When asked which opponent he most admired, the 31-year-old acknowledged the Argentinian and said he has great respect for his longtime rival, per Coach magazine's Diego Jokas: "There is a big mutual respect between myself and Lionel Messi. The media like to make out like we have this big rivalry, but we don’t. It is not like we are good friends, but there is a mutual respect on both sides."

Consistently pitted against each other in discussions about who is the world's best, Ronaldo and Messi have deservedly monopolised the Ballon d'Or for the best part of the last decade. 

(From L) FC Barcelona and Argentina's forward Lionel Messi and Real Madrid and Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo give a press conference ahead of the 2015 FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony at the Kongresshaus in Zurich on January 11, 2016.   AFP PHOTO /
OLIVIER MORIN/Getty Images

No other player has matched their consistency, both in terms of creative and goalscoring output and respective importance to their club and national sides.

Ronaldo acknowledged that he has needed both positive and negative motivation to propel him to the top of the game and singled out those who doubt his ability as a key inspiration, per Jokas: "[It is important] to use negative people and experiences to motivate you. I actually need my haters—they have helped me achieve all I have achieved."

The clamour of Ronaldo's detractors has risen since the start of the 2016-17 season, as the former Manchester United star has endured an uncharacteristic drought in front of goal, particularly at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, per Spanish football writer Dermot Corrigan:

Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan

Ronaldo with 11 shots today - 2 on target. Gone four straight games without scoring at Bernabeu now for first time in his Madrid career.

A Bleacher Report panel recently discussed the idea that Ronaldo is no longer the main man at Real:

Even with Ronaldo's poor form, Zinedine Zidane's side are still top of La Liga.

But Real will still be eager that he gets back to his best again, as they will need him if they are to claim silverware in 2016-17.

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